Westfield, down 23-0, scored with 2:15 left in the third quarter to begin a run of 27 unanswered points to begin an amazing comeback 27-23 win over Bridgewater-Raritan.
First Quarter: After a shanked, 1-yard Westfield punt, Bridgewater-Raritan began with the ball on the Westfield 42. On fourth-and-3, Alex Fromberg found Bryce Myers for 23 yards down to the 12 and were on the board when Mike Pastor kicked a 35-yard field goal. Westfield fielded the ensuing kickoff on their 12-yard line and promptly stepped out of bounds – a play they should have let the ball roll out of bounds and get the ball on the 35, as they did on the opening kickoff. They picked up a couple of first downs on their next drive before punting. B-R moved when Fromberg found Miftar Hasanaj for 17 yards and Myers for 10 yards sandwiched around a 1-yard run. Fromberg then found Hasanaj for a 41-yard touchdown to make it 10-0 on the quarter’s final play.
Second Quarter: Westfield’s next possession ended when Gerard Redden sacked Hank Shapiro for a 7-yard loss and punted to the Panthers again. The following drive lasted one play, with Fromberg hitting an all-alone Hasanaj getting past the defense for a 48-yard touchdown. Westfield was faced with a fourth-and-1 on their 42 and went for it, but Shapiro was stopped for no gain. B-R moved down the field, picking up three first downs for a first-and-goal on the 7. After being stopped for no gain, the Panthers passed for apparent touchdowns on the following two plays. But poor calls by the officials ruled each pass incomplete. The first pass especially should have been a touchdown as Mike Maciolek had two steps and at least one second in the end zone before the Westfield defender knocked the ball out of his arms. The second was a closer call, but Hasanaj still had possession of the ball over the goal line for it to have been ruled a touchdown. The Panthers settled for a 24-yard field goal to make it 20-0 with 3:21 left in the half. Westfield moved down the field, getting a first-and-goal from the 10, but Tim Alliegro fumbled on the following play with one minute left with B-R recovering.
Third Quarter: Bridgewater-Raritan had a chance to add to the lead: Fromberg hit Peter Usewick for 41 yards to the 21 and kept it himself on the following play, getting 16 yards, giving the Panthers a first-and-goal from the 6. A 1-yard run and two incompletions forced a 22-yard field goal by Pastor and it was 23-0. Westfield punted on their next possession and their defense forced Bridgewater-Raritan’s first punt, giving the Blue Devils possession on their 24. Four plays later, Shapiro found John Czarnecki for a 27-yard touchdown pass and Westfield was on the board with 2:15 left in the quarter. B-R came right back on a drive that lasted five-and-a-half minutes. But Fromberg’s pass to Hasanaj on fourth-and-5 on the 22 was stopped one yard short and Westfield had possession on their 18 with 8:29 left in the game.
Fourth Quarter: Things started poorly when Shapiro was sacked by Pastor on the first play for a 6-yard loss to the 12. But Shapiro found Czarnecki for 23 yards on the following play and the two hooked up again for a 28-yard pass three plays later to the 35. Shapiro found Alliegro for 11 yards and William Papadopoulos for 6, moving the ball to the 18. Shapiro kept it on third-and-4, going 6 yards to the 12 for the first down. One play later, found Alliegro in the right flat, who ran the rest of the way for the score. A two-point conversion failed and it was 23-13 with 6:35 left.
Will Kessler batted a pass down on third down and Bridgewater-Raritan had to punt, giving Westfield the ball on their 32 with 4:39 remaining. Six plays later, Alliegro scored from one yard out and it was 23-20 with 3:09 remaining. The score was set up on the previous play when Shapiro found Griffin Rooney for 43 yards.
A bad toss pitch on Bridgewater-Raritan’s first play lost 8 yards, followed by an incomplete pass, and a run for no yards. A punt to the 50 and Rooney’s return to the 32 set the Blue Devils up with 2:37 left – only 23 seconds coming off the clock on Bridgewater-Raritan’s drive. All it took for Westfield was two plays, a 30-yard touchdown pass from Shapiro to Rooney to put the Blue Devils in front for the first time with two minutes remaining.
Matthew Shinners had a sack that lost 12 yards to the 15, but Fromberg was able to get a first down, going 2 yards on fourth-and-2. After an incomplete pass, Rooney intercepted and the Blue Devils ran out the clock.
Bridgewater-Raritan – 10-10-3-0-23
B-R – Pastor, 35-yard field goal
B-R – Fromberg-to-Hasanaj, 41 yards (kick good)
B-R – Fromberg, to Hasanaj, 48 yards (kick good)
B-R – Pastor, 24-yard field goal
B-R – Pastor, 22-yard field goal
W – Shapiro to Czarnecki, 27 yards (kick good)
W – Shapiro to Alliegro, 12 yards (pass failed)
W – Alliegro, 1-yard run (kick good)
W – Shapiro to Rooney, 20 yards (kick good)
Westfield showed great resilience after trailing 23-0. Their first half had their share of blunders; among them were:
- a 1-yard punt
- fielding a kickoff near the sideline on the 12 with Westfield stepping out of bounds when letting the ball roll out of bounds would have given them the ball on the 35
- Allowing a wide open Hasanaj get past the defense on what looked like a blown assignment
- Fumbling on the 9-yard line when they had a first down with one minute left in the half
Shapiro was phenomenal in the second half, more specifically on Westfield’s last four drives, when he was 16-18-255 and three touchdowns. For the game, Shapiro was 24-32-315 and three touchdowns. On the receiving end, Czarnecki caught 10 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown, while Rooney had 8 receptions for 157 yards and a score. Alliegro had two touchdowns: one rushing and one receiving. The Blue Devils, as a team rushed for 52 yards.
Bridgewater-Raritan will be haunted by this loss. The Panthers had 331 yards of offense: 187 in the first half and 144 in the second half. But the more telling offensive stat was their gaining 16 yards on their final three drives. Combine that with Westfield’s 182 yards on their final three drives and that sums up Westfield’s comeback. The Panthers were cheated at the end of the first half with the bad calls that should have been touchdowns, but they had their opportunities in the second half. They settled for a field goal when they had first-and-goal on the 6 on their first drive of the second half. They also drove past the 50 early in the fourth quarter and came away empty. One can also argue that Westfield left points on the board late in the first half when they fumbled on the 9-yard line when they had first-and-goal. In the end, the Panthers did not take advantage of their opportunities.