On Friday night, No.13 Hillsborough gave a lesson on how to play in extreme weather conditions. In the wind and rain, Hillsborough didn’t throw a single pass, crushing 397 rushing yards and beating North Brunswick 41-0 to end their regular season unbeaten at 9-0.
As the offense made the most of its 41 running games, the defense took on North Brunswick and talented junior quarterback Frankie Garbolino. As Garbolino had five assists, the weather forced North to rely on his running game and Hillsborough defenders didn’t quarterback, limiting North Brunswick to negative rushing yards that day.
The win was particularly important for Hillsborough as the final seed of the section tournament begins after the weekend games and the Raiders are hoping the decisive win will propel them to first place in Group 5, South.
âWe were hoping it could go that way,â Hillsborough coach Kevin Carty said of his team’s ability to dominate the field. âI think we both felt that the game could have favored our team a little more if we had to show up. But I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to do it so convincingly. (North Brunswick is) a good physical team.
Hillsborough opened the competition by running 68 yards for a touchdown on the game’s first practice, taking advantage of an offside penalty from North Brunswick on a fourth and one on his own 41 to keep the disc alive.
Thomas Amankwaa gave Hillsborough a 7-0 lead when he finished that run with an eight-yard rush for a touchdown. It was the start of a monster game for Amankwaa, who scored three touchdowns on the day and rushed for 192 yards, all in the first half.
After Hillsborough’s defense forced an 11-game practice at North Brunswick to stall near midfield, the offense took over on its own one-yard line and traveled 99 yards to climb 14-0. After the Hillsborough full-backs propelled the ball up the field and out of harm’s way to the 40-yard line, it was Amankwaa who took the rest of the way, starting the second quarter by interrupting a touchdown run of 60 meters.
Amankwaa climbed up the right side, but with lack of ground he crossed the pitch and used his speed to pass all remaining defenders to the end zone.
âEver since I was young I’ve always loved cutting,â Amankwaa said of his 60-yard run. âInstinct told me to cut it and cross the field.
âIt fell on the line today. Under these circumstances (weather), the line really went through. Coming into that game we knew it was going to be a ground and pound game and the line got him to a great defensive line every play. â
After Amankwaa’s second TD, the defense came back strong as Ryan Tasetano caught a pass from Garbolino just three games from the next possession and sent it back to the North Brunswick 14-yard line. Hillsborough only needed one play to score from there as Tyler Michinard covered 14 yards for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
The second quarter would soon turn into a nightmare for North Brunswick as Hillsborough added two more touchdowns to extend the lead to 34-0 before the end of the first half.
In the ensuing kickoff, Marquis Perry’s 85-yard kickoff return for an apparent touchdown was called back to North Brunswick 36 due to detention. Four games later, Hillsborough had the ball again and Amankwaa interrupted two runs for 40 yards, including a 12-yard rush for a touchdown and a 28-0 lead.
The touchdown set a new single-season scoring record for Hillsborough as it gave Amankwaa 128 points for the season, two more than the old record set by John Banaciski in 2013.
After limiting North Brunswick to another four-play possession, Hillsborough snuck into another pre-halftime touchdown, needing just seven plays to cover 85 yards on the run from Amankwaa, Michinard and the rear Sal Volpe. It was Michinard who covered the final seven yards for the touchdown to give Hillsborough a 34-0 lead with 1:03 left in the half.
âWe were able to set the tone and execute it on the pitch in that first practice,â Carty said of his team’s explosive first half. âAnd then we get the 99-yard drive. And (we made) some tough stops. (North Brunswick) made a few shots at the start, but our defensive pressure was so relentless. Then Tasetano with this huge choice gave us this lead of 21 points. It’s just tough ground to come back.
âWe knew what we needed today. We had to physically hit them and run the ball like we did and play defense like we did. We needed different things in those 10 weeks and these guys come by every week. I am so happy and proud of them.
With the clock running, Hillsborough would add one more score in the third quarter, covering 65 yards in eight plays on his first possession in the second half. Dom Monsorno covered 21 yards on three drives on the drive while Volpe had 15 on four carries, including the finish, a two-yard touchdown dive.
âThe elements were not in our favor,â said North Brunswick coach Mike Cipot after the loss. âBut this is football and you just have to stick to the game plan no matter what the weather is like. And you just have to play ball.
âWe knew they were going to get the ball out and we had a defense ready for it. Sometimes a team is just bigger and stronger and those are the breaks. If the ball bounces one way it might be in our favor, but tonight was Hillsborough night and it wasn’t ours.
With the playoffs coming next week, Carty took a moment after the win to reflect on her team’s successful regular season.
âWe faced tough teams and got victories,â he said. âThe way we did it today is indicative of how we did it a lot. They are different guys every week, but I think what was consistent was the physique we had and the intelligence with which we played. In defense, we were very smart. We had some great picks at the same time that we were so physical at the point of attack. Today was a day when you had to run the ball and we didn’t let them run the ball.
âThese guys are the best kids. The group of players and leaders that they are is so awesome. They are all good friends, they all work so hard, they care so much about football, they are so selfless. These guys come to work every day and then in a game they do whatever it takes. A game like today really emphasizes priority. These guys went out today and weren’t distracted by anything. They have really succeeded for us.