EAST RUTHERFORD – No matter how much you game-plan to prevent a formidable aerial attack it almost doesn’t matter.
If quarterback and wide receiver are on the same page – like Ramapo seniors AJ Wingfield and Max Baker have been all season long – all you can do is tip your hat.
Wingfield threw five touchdown passes, three to Baker, in leading the North 1, Group 3 state champion Ramapo Indians to a convincing 42-22 win over the North 2, Group 3 state champion Summit Hilltoppers in Saturday morning’s first-ever North, Group 3 Bowl Game at MetLife Stadium.
Whether it was a slant pass over the middle or a pass to either sideline, Wingfield hit his receivers – specifically Baker – in stride all game long.
Wingfield’s final line – one of his most impressive ever – read: 19-25 for 268 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. He had four TD passes in the first half.
Baker had seven receptions for 79 yards and two touchdowns in the first half and then caught another TD pass in the fourth quarter for Ramapo’s final touchdown.
Ramapo finished 13-0 for the first time and became New Jersey’s first school to conclude with that lofty mark due to the first year of the Bowl Games following state championship contests.
For head coach Drew Gibbs, who took over in 2001, this was his first undefeated team. Ramapo lost at MetLife to River Dell 28-7 in last year’s North 1, Group 3 final. Wingfield did not have one of his best games that day.
One year later as a senior Wingfield helped lead Ramapo past River Dell twice, including in the North 1, Group 3 final at home, and then past fellow Group 3 state champion Summit.
Summit head coach Kevin Kostibos, who has guided the HIlltoppers to two state championships in his six-season tenure, including a 12-0 mark in 2013, was very proud of his team, which finished 10-2 and reached double digit wins for the first time in five years.
“Ramapo is a great team and you guys hung in there with them until the very last play,” Kostibos told his players.
Summit senior running back Max Jackson rushed for 120 yards on 27 carries and scored his team’s first two touchdowns, both in the first half. He finished his final season with 1,752 yards on 237 carries (7.4 average).
Jackson set the program’s single-season rushing record this year, breaking the previous mark of 1,579 yards established by Chris Zanelli in 2014.
“This feels kind of weird, but we’ll keep our heads up,” Jackson said. “Hopefully the guys will be back here next year. Just walking out here on this field was amazing.”
Summit answered Ramapo’s first touchdown to take an 8-7 lead that carried over into the second quarter. Both teams scored their first touchdowns on 13-play drives.
After Ramapo scored the next two touchdowns, Jackson broke free for a 31-yard score. Down 20-16, Summit needed to stop Ramapo late in the first half to keep the score where it was.
However, the Indians had other ideas. Starting from their own 32 with 2:13 remaining, two runs put them at their own 49. Then Wingfield completed a 23-yard pass to Ty Jaten.
Wingfield then hit Baker for 16 yards and with 37 seconds left found him open again for a 22-yard touchdown pass. Baker then kept both feet in bounds in the right corner to catch a two-point pass to give the Indians a 28-16 lead they would take with them into the locker room at halftime.
After Summit was held the first time it had the ball in the third quarter, Ramapo put together a 15-play, 66-yard drive that consumed 5:40. Senior running back Luke Ragone scored from one yard out to pretty much put the game away.
Summit junior running back Joe Lusardi broke free for a 61 yard-run on Summit’s final scoring drive to finish with 129 yards on nine carries. He scored eight touchdowns total in Summit’s previous two playoff games.
Summit senior running back Jackson Tyler, hampered in recent weeks with a knee injury that prevented him from running the ball as much as he normally would, scored Summit’s final touchdown of the season on a three-yard run.
“Losing sucks, it does, but remember this, you guys are state champions, don’t ever forget that,” Kostibos told his players after the game.
Ramapo senior QB AJ Wingfield: 12-17 passing for 185 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT.
Summit senior RB Max Jackson: 18-100 rushing, 2 TDs.
Ramapo senior WR Max Baker: 7 receptions for 79 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs.
Ramapo senior RB Luke Ragone: 10-38 rushing.
Total yards: Ramapo 265. Summit 190.
NORTH, GROUP 3 BOWL GAME AT METLIFE STADIUM
N2G3 state champion-Summit (10-2) 08 08 00 06 – 22
N1G3 state champion-Ramapo (13-0) 07 21 07 07 – 42
Ramapo – Ty Jaten 4 pass from AJ Wingfield, Aidan Labell kick (R 7-0)
13 plays, 81 yards, 5:00 used
Summit – Max Jackson 2 run, Joe Lusardi pass from Skyler Schluter (S 8-7)
13 plays, 52 yards, 3:39 used
Ramapo – Matt Wingfield 41 pass from AJ Wingfield, kick failed (R 13-8)
6 plays, 64 yards, 1:30 used
Ramapo – Max Baker 20 pass from AJ Wingfield, Aidan Labell kick (R 20-8)
4 plays, 29 yards, 1:56 used
Ramapo capitalizes on a turnover – an interception by Sam Basa.
Summit – Max Jackson 31 run, Jackson run (R 20-16)
5 plays, 73 yards, 1:12 used
Ramapo – Max Baker 22 pass from AJ Wingfield,
Max Baker pass from AJ Wingfield (R 28-16)
7 plays, 68 yards, 1:36 used
Ramapo – Luke Ragone 1 run, Aidan Labell kick (R 35-16)
15 plays, 66 yards, 5:40 used
Ramapo – Max Baker 6 pass from AJ Wingfield, Aidan Labell kick (R 42-16)
Summit – Jackson Tyler 3 run, fun failed (R 42-22)
4 plays, 67 yards, 1:20 used