HILLSIDE, NJ — Muwaffaq Parkman didn’t wake up on Saturday, Sept. 25, thinking he was going to reach the end zone once, twice, three times or even four.
What high school football player thinks that way?
Some things just have a way of working out.
“I’m fortunate to have an offensive line that works really hard, including in the weight room,” Parkman said.
It was Hillside’s offensive line that paved the way for Parkman, a junior, to rush for 194 yards on just eight carries, including a career-high four touchdowns.
Parkman scored in all four quarters to help lift Hillside to a convincing, 40-7 home-opening triumph against Voorhees in Saturday afternoon’s Big Central Conference–Division 2A clash at John Zappulla Field.
Parkman, who last year missed two games with an ankle injury and hurt his ankle again in Hillside’s opener earlier this month against Bernards, scored on runs of 77 and 21 yards in the first half and 63 and 30 yards in the second. His long runs of 77 and 63 were sprints down the sideline in front of the visitors, the latter one coming on Hillside’s first play from scrimmage in the second half.
His bodyguards in front of him included No. 55, junior left tackle Charles Allen; No. 60, senior left guard Osagie Ugiagbe; No. 50, sophomore center Leo Harris; No. 66, senior right guard Mathew Ihemesie; and No. 56, junior right tackle Darren “DJ” Nesmith.
“I wasn’t expecting this kind of game, but I stayed focused and hungry all week,” Parkman said. “It comes down to hard work, and we try to work harder than anyone else.”
Hillside scored the first time it had the ball to take the lead for good when junior quarterback Caleb Salters completed an eight-play, 87-yard drive with a 21-yard touchdown run untouched up the middle.
Parkman’s first touchdown, on Hillside’s next possession, put the Comets ahead 13-0.
Voorhees scored on a 42-yard pass play from quarterback Will Letters to Josh Reid with 6:32 left before intermission. The pass was tipped by a Hillside player and then fell into Reid’s arms. The point after pulled the visiting Vikings to within 14-7.
A big play for Voorhees on the drive was a pass interference penalty called against Hillside. The Comets were flagged eight times for 95 yards in the first half. Hillside was better in the third quarter, not getting called for one single penalty in the 12-minute session.
Hillside answered the only Voorhees score immediately when Parkman scored his second touchdown, this one on a 21-yard sprint up the middle. Voorhees was penalized for celebrating its touchdown and that penalty was assessed on the kickoff.
The Vikings then tried a squib kick that Hillside not only fielded cleanly but returned all the way to the Voorhees 21. It didn’t take long for the Comets to go back up by two scores.
It also didn’t take long for Parkman to score again and for Hillside to add to its lead once the second half began. On the first play of the third quarter, Parkman found a hole again and raced down the sideline for 63 yards.
Hillside junior running back Kyon Simonson scored his team’s fifth touchdown on a 5-yard run in the fourth quarter before Parkman closed the scoring with his fourth score a little more than five minutes from the end.
“All the touchdowns were really the same play,” Parkman said. “Read your blockers and run through the hole.”
Simonson finished with 105 yards on 12 carries and his touchdown run.
Salters completed five of 13 passes for 139 yards.
In the first half, Letters completed four of eight passes for 61 yards. He was hit hard in the second half and replaced by sophomore Isaac Levitan.
An interception by senior defensive back Darson Jeanty led to Hillside’s final score.
Hillside junior defensive back Sakai Degannes came very close to intercepting two passes that just fell off his fingertips.
NOTES: It’s off to Berkeley Heights next week for Hillside, which last year saw a 13-game winning streak halted there by host Gov. Livingston 16-14.
Hillside also had an 18-game regular-season winning streak snapped by the Highlanders that day. It was Hillside’s first regular-season loss since falling at Cranford 34-21 in 2017.
“That was a tough loss,” Parkman said. “We’ve been waiting for this game since then. We now have to go out and put our hard work in.”
Hillside is scheduled to play at Gov. Livingston on Saturday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m. at Gov. Livingston’s Frey Field. The Highlanders are 0-3 overall and 0-3 in Division 2A, after falling most recently to division leader Delaware Valley 40-7 on Friday, Sept. 24.
Photos by JR Parachini