PISCATAWAY - A dazzling season came to a disappointing end for a Point Boro team that experienced the fine line between a state title and coming up just short on Saturday.

A touchdown by Hillside with seven seconds left in the first half loomed large in the end as the seventh-seeded Comets took down the previously-unbeaten Panthers 20-13 at High Point Solutions Stadium to win the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II title.

Point Boro's high-scoring offense was bottled up by Hillside to come up just short of a state title. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

Hillside (9-3) won its first state title since 1985 and denied the top-seeded Panthers (11-1) their first undefeated season since 2005 by limiting a Point Boro offense that entered averaging 34.3 points per game.

Point Boro fought until the end, scoring on a seven-yard touchdown run by senior quarterback James Fara on fourth-and-four with 42 seconds remaining to make it a one-score game. However, Hillside recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the victory.

"Obviously it's not the outcome we were looking for,'' Point Boro head coach Matt Cilento said. "They had a shot. Unfortunately this is going to be a tough one to swallow on the way home.

"Our senior leadership has been tremendous. They have a lot of good memories the last two years together, especially this senior group. As a staff, we're extremely proud of them."

Pt. Boro actually outgained Hillside 289-210, but the Comets' big-play ability on offense and their sideline-to-sideline speed on defense proved to be too much for the Panthers to overcome. Hillside also came up with a pair of crucial interceptions.

"A lot of people thought they were going to beat us, so this really meant a lot,'' said Hillside sophomore safety/wideout Nahree Biggins.

The first interception came with Hillside up 6-0 with 1:35 left in the half when Biggins snatched a throw into double coverage at Point Boro's 45-yard line.

Six plays later, Biggins took a middle screen pass 36 yards on fourth-and-1 for a backbreaking touchdown with seven seconds left in the half. The Comets then took a 14-0 halftime lead after a two-point conversion run by James Louis. 

"When our quarterback is dropping back (on that play), he's bringing everyone in, and that's not a play we really run a lot,'' Biggins said.

"That was a tough one for us,'' Cilento said. "They had a fourth-and-short and a couple third-and-shorts (on that drive), and they took advantage of that."

It was Biggins' second touchdown of the game, both of which came on fourth down. He plowed in from two yards on fourth-and-goal early in the second quarter to cap a drive fueled by a 71-yard bomb from Tajae Irby to junior wideout Charles Amissah to the Panthers' 4-yard line.

Hillside mounted what proved to be the decisive drive of the game to open the second half by going 54 yards in six plays, scoring on a 4-yard run by junior Shadon Willis for a 20-0 lead.

Senior quarterback James Fara finished with 87 yards rushing and 65 yards passing in the loss. (Photo by Ray Richardson)

That's the way the score remained until Point Boro made it interesting in the final seven minutes of the game.

Fara hit a wide-open Kyle Komanitsky for a 26-yard touchdown to put the Panthers on the board with 6:51 remaining, and then Point Boro recovered an ensuing onside kick. However, Fara was sacked for an 11-yard loss and then was picked off by Boris Nicolas-Paul to allow Hillside to burn more clock on its way to closing out the victory.

Senior slotback Brandon Cipriano had a game-high 102 yards rushing on 11 carries in the loss, but Point Boro was never able to consistently get to the perimeter against the speed of the Comets' defense. Hillside held Fara to 87 yards rushing on 26 carries in the triple-option attack while picking off a pair of passes.

"Hillside played physical, they played fast,'' Cilento said. "That's something we knew going into it. They have a lot of good players over there and they were well-coached."

"As soon as the ball was snapped I felt (we had a speed advantage),'' Biggins said.

It brought to end a two-year run by a large and talented senior class in which the Panthers went 19-3, won a pair of division titles and reached a state final.

"It's going to be a tremendous loss because they're such hard workers and high character kids,'' Cilento said about the seniors. "They put this program where it's at right now."

Box score

Hillside 20, Point Boro 13

.                               H                  P

First downs            9                  16

Rushes-yards    22-44             47-224

Passing              9-15-0             6-12-2

Passing yards       166                65

Penalties              8-67              8-49

Fumbles-lost         0-0                0-0

 

Hillside (9-3)         0    14   6   0   -   20

Pt. Boro (11-1)      0    0     0   13 -  13

 

Scoring summary

H: Biggins 2-yard run (kick failed).

H: Biggins 36-yard pass from Irby (Louis run).

H:: Willis 4-yard run (kick failed).

P: Komanitsky 26-yard pass from Fara (kick failed).

P: Fara 7-yard run (Chiarello kick).

 

Individual statistics

Rushing - H: Louis 9-28, Ugwu 6-8, Biggins 2-7, Willis 2-3, Irby 2-(-1). P: Cipriano 11-102, Fara 26-87, Gordon 9-35.

Passing - H: Irby 9-15-0 166. P: Fara 6-10-2 65.

Receiving - H: Biggins 3-45, Willis 2-43, Nicolas-Paul 2-7, Amissah 1-71, Louis 1-0. P: Cipriano 2-19, Chiarello 2-4, Komanitsky 1-26, McNamara 1-16.

Interceptions - H: Biggins 1-(-1), Nicolas-Paul 1-4.

 

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