Point Boro Loses a Heartbreaker to Haddonfield in NJSIAA Central/South Group 2 Regional Championship Game
PISCATAWAY -- Point Boro and Haddonfield played a classic on Saturday morning at Rutgers University, but the thing about classics is that one team is going to walk off the field devastated.
That team ended up being Point Boro.
The Panthers found themselves trailing by seven in the NJSIAA Central/South Group 2 Regional Championship Game with 5:03 left in regulation and then orchestrated a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive that ended with junior fullback Tyler Gordon plowing in for a 1-yard touchdown run with eight seconds left. Point Boro head coach Brian Staub opted to go for the extra point to tie the game, but the kick missed its mark wide to the left.
Haddonfield then recovered the ensuing onside kick to hold on for a 28-27 victory. Ecstasy for Haddonfield. Agony for Point Boro.
"We thought we were the better team and we thought we had the momentum and that we were going to make that kick," Staub said. "We wanted to go to OT."
"There was some thought in going for two," Staub said. "I remember in 2018 we went for two against Raritan and we didn't get it, so I don't know if that played a factor in it. But we have complete faith in our special teams and we wanted OT."
Point Boro ends the season with a 10-2 record, a Shore Conference division championship, and the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 2 sectional title.
"Right away we just pointed up to the stands and told them to look at how many people they brought together. This community rallied around them," Staub said. "We won a sectional title for the first time in 16 years. Obviously we wanted to come out with this one but I'm proud as hell of these boys."
Haddonfield trailed 14-0 after the first quarter but rallied to close the gap to 21-13 at halftime and then tied the game at 21 on the first drive of the second half. The Bulldogs (10-3) took their first lead of the game with 5:03 left in the fourth quarter when senior quarterback Carson Wolff scrambled, bounced off a Point Boro tackler, and scored on a 14-yard touchdown run on third-and-7.
The drive was set up when Haddonfield stopped Point Boro on downs just inside midfield. The Panthers elected to go for it on fourth-and-6 from the Haddonfield 45-yard line with 11:30 left in the fourth quarter but Haddonfield stopped a swing pass for a 2-yard loss to turn the ball over on downs.
"We're the No. 1 scoring offense in the Shore and we score, so we have that much confidence in our offense and we want the ball," Staub said about the decision to go for it rather than punt. "We thought it was going to be the last team to have the ball was going to win, so we said let's go."
Still, Point Boro had a chance to drive for the tie or win with 5:03 left and executed a fantastic drive that was vintage Point Boro. Senior quarterback Charlie Vitale converted a third-and-3 at the Panthers' 27-yard line, sophomore slotback Matt Oliphant ran for eight yards, and then Vitale found a crease for a 14-yard gain into Haddonfield territory. After a 15-yard run by Oliphant that he nearly broke for a touchdown, Vitale connected with junior slotback Connor Cilento over the middle for 16 yards to bring up first-and-goal from the 4-yard line.
An offsides penalty on Haddonfield pushed the ball to the 2-yard line and after two straight short gains, Gordon surged into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown run that pulled the Panthers to within one point. Sophomore kicker Brayden Forfar entered the game having converted 86 percent of his extra-point attempts this season and was a perfect 3-for-3 on the day, but this one just missed its mark to the left, the narrower goalposts of a college stadium perhaps coming into play.
Point Boro attempted an onside kick and thought it had recovered even though it was initially ruled to be a Haddonfield recovery. A video review upheld the ball on the field and Haddonfield was able to take a knee and run out the remaining four seconds.
"The brotherhood is only going to get stronger," Staub said of the crushing defeat. "That's our motto and it's on our shirts, but it's not just saying it, it's living it. There's no better scenario to have that brotherhood and that love for each other than after a heartbreaking loss."
It was all Point Boro early in the game, however, as the Panthers took the ball on the opening kickoff and drove 89 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead on Vitale's 3-yard touchdown run. Cilento had a 17-yard catch and sophomore fullback Jake Croce had a 27-yard run to set up the short touchdown plunge.
Point Boro then executed a surprise onside kick that Cilento recovered at the Haddonfield 43-yard line. A pair of 18-yard runs by Cilento two plays apart put the ball at the 1-yard line and Vitale scored on a quarterback sneak for a 14-0 lead. Haddonfield had yet to run an offense play and Point Boro led by two touchdowns with 1:45 left in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs unsurprisingly battled back and once their offense got on the field they were nearly unstoppable. On its first possession, Haddonfield went 75 yards in seven plays in just 2:49 to get on the board on a 25-yard touchdown run by senior running back Bobby Hahn. The extra point was missed and Point Boro still led, 14-6.
Point Boro answered with a 10-play, 74-yard scoring drive in 4:55 that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by Croce, giving the Panthers a 21-6 advantage. A 21-yard pass from Vitale to Brian Orio and then a 22-yard catch by Oliphant on fouth-and-7 put the ball at the 2-yard line for Croce's touchdown run.
Haddonfield responded with its second straight scoring drive, going 61 yards in seven plays to once again make it a one-score game. Wolff connected with Carl Forebaugh for 23 yards down to the Point Boro 20 and three plays later on third-and-10, Will Goldberg was left wide-open and Wolff found him easily for a 20-yard touchdown. Jack Cutter's extra point was true to make it 21-13 with 2:59 left in the first half.
Point Boro moved to its own 43-yard line on the next series but Haddonfield finally got a stop to force a punt late in the half. The Bulldogs then received the second-half kickoff and marched 68 yards in nine plays to tie the game at 21. Hahn had two 16-yard runs and Wolff had a 13-yard run down to the 2-yard line where Hahn scored two plays later. Trailing 21-19 after the touchdown, the Bulldogs went for the 2-point conversion and got it when Wolff scrambled and found Forebaught just across the goalline with 6:53 left n the third quarter.
Point Boro then went three-and-out and it was clear the momentum had shifted to Haddonfield. After scoring on their first three possessions, Point Boro had run into much more resistance from the Haddonfield defense.
"They started blitzing more up the middle running the 3-3 stack," Staub said. "They're extremely well-coached, fundamentally sound, and they did a good job of causing some chaos and pileups."
The Panthers defense had a critical response, though, by forcing a three-and-out of its own. It was almost much more for the defense when Aiden Ward blasted Wolff on a sack and the ball was jarred loose, but Haddonfield was able to recover the fumble and avoid disaster.
The next series ended with Point Boro going for it on fourth down and Haddonfield getting the stop to set up the dramatic fourth quarter.
It was a brutal, gut-wrenching loss for Point Boro, no question, but it was a game in which they showed why they are a 10-win team that won a sectional title. Senior quarterback Charlie Vitale, one of just a few senior starters for the Panthers, was great in his final game with 123 yards rushing and two touchdowns plus 77 yards passing.
"He's the heart and soul and the leader of this team," Staub said. "I'm so proud. He's the hardest worker on this team and when your best player is your best leader, you're going to go far."
Point Boro returns the majority of its roster next season, including Croce, Oliphant, Cilento, Gordon, Orio, Ward, linemen Cole Skinner and Charles Davison, and linebackers Connor Reynolds and and Sam Muraglia. The three straight sub-.500 seasons leading into this year fueled them throughout the offseason. Now, there will be new motivation.
"I think we're going to be a little angry and have extra motivation," Staub said. "We're going to honor these seniors by how we play next year, and the goal is simple. The standards and high and the expectations are high. It's not just get here, it's win here."
Haddonfield 28, Point Boro 27
|Point Boro (10-2)
PB – Charlie Vitale 3-yard run (Brayden Forfar kick)
PB – Charlie Vitale 1-yard run (Brayden Forfar kick)
H – Bobby Hahn 24-yard run (kick failed
PB – Jake Croce 2-yard run (Brayden Forfar kick)
H – WIll Goldberg 20-yard pass from Carson Wolff (Jack Cutter kick)
H – Bobby Hahn 2-yard run (Carl Forebaugh pass from Carson Wolff)
H – Carson Wolff 14-yard run (Jack Cutter kick)
PB – Tyler Gordon 1-yard run (kick failed)
RUSHING – H: Bobby Hahn 17-101, Carson Wolff 9-58, Charlie Klauss 2-4; PB: Charlie Vitale 20-123, Jake Croce 14-56, Connor Cilento 6-48, Matt Oliphant 7-36, Tyler Gordon 3-2.
PASSING – H: Carson Wolff 7-9-0 68, Bobby Hahn 0-1-0 0; PB: Charlie Vitale 6-7-0 76.
RECEIVING – H: Carl Forebaugh 3-28, Will Goldberg 2-21, Bobby Hahn 1-7, Charlie Klauss 1-2; PB: Connor Cilento 3-35, Matt Oliphant 1-22, Brian Orio 1-21, Jake Croce 1-(-2).