Ridgewood scored with 28 seconds left on a 5-yard touchdown run by Reuben Pillai to beat Union, 41-27 after a spectacular catch by Tommy Bourque for 31 yards to set up the score. It was an outstanding high school game and the fourth quarter saw five lead changes.
First Quarter: Union came out moving the ball and Andrew Sanborn found Jalen Carter for a 23-yard touchdown. It was a beautiful throw by Sanborn, placing the ball over three Ridgewood defenders in the spot where only Carter could catch it. Later in the quarter, Ridgewood got on the board when Liam Tarleton, on fourth-and-3, went 40 yards with the quarterback keeper on a beautifully executed play, drawing the Union defense in as Tarleton went left and outraced the defense. Helping the play was halfback George Hadfield sealing off the a Union defender, cutting off any chance of catching Tarleton.
Second Quarter: Union was back on top when receiver Desmond Igbinosun scored running a counter to the left for 50 yards, outrunning several Ridgewood defenders down the sideline. The Farmers added to their lead when Sanborn found Elijah White for a 68-yard score as White weaved in and around defenders for 65 of those yards, making it 19-6 with 3:52 left. Ridgewood did not go away as Pillai had two consecutive runs of 18 and 46 yards to the 4-yard line. Tarleton scored on a 1-yard sneak to make it 19-13. Union went back down the field and Sanborn found Kayir McBride for a 2-yard score – another pass Sanborn threaded into the right spot, as McBride had three defenders in his vicinity.
Third Quarter: Tarleton found Tommy Bourque between two Union defenders, making a brilliant catch for 40 yards down to the 10-yard line. The Maroons followed it up on the next play when Gabe Santiago went up the middle for the touchdown – I’m not sure if it was a trap, but Andrew Messineo got a piece of a Union defender who got to Santiago a little late to stop him. Union fumbled on both of their following possessions, but Ridgewood turned it over on downs the first time.
Fourth Quarter: The second fumble was late in the third quarter and Ridgewood cashed in when Pillai scored on a 5-yard run to put the Maroons up for the first time, 26-25, 37 seconds into the fourth quarter. The fumble was a key play, enabling the Maroons to get runs of 18 yards by Santiago, 22 from Sean Emmanuel, and 29 by Pillai to set up the score. Sanborn moved Union down the field and Christian Murrell scored on a 2-yard run to regain the lead, 31-26. That didn’t deter Ridgewood, who went back in front on a 1-yard Emmanuel run, 34-31. Setting up the score were runs of 29 yards by Emmanuel and 17 by Santiago. Now it was Unions turn. Sanborn found Igbinosun for 24 yards and Ahmirr Robinson for 18. Sanborn then found White for the touchdown near the left sideline in the end zone to go ahead, 37-34 with 2:26 remaining.
Ridgewood began on their 27. They moved the ball with Pillai gaining 31 yards to the Union 42. The clock was winding down when Tarleton found Bourque over the middle for 31 yards to the 5-yard line, making a jumping catch between two Union defenders. Pillai scored on the following play to go ahead, 41-37 with 28 seconds left. Union had one last chance, but Bourque intercepted to end the game.
Ridgewood – 6 – 7 – 6 – 22 – 41
Union – 6 – 19 – 0 – 12 – 37
U – Sanborn to Carter, 23 yards (kick blocked)
R – Tarleton, 40-yard run (kick blocked)
U – Igbinosun, 50-yard run (kick good)
U – Sanborn to White, 68 yards (kick failed)
R – Tarleton, 1-yard sneak (kick good)
U – Sanborn to McBride, 5 yards (run failed)
R – Santiago, 10-yard run (kick failed)
R – Pillai, 5-yard run (kick good)
U – Murrell, 6-yard run (pass failed)
R – Emmanuel, 1-yard run (Tarleton to Pillai)
U – Sanborn to White, 14 yards (kick failed)
R – Pillai, 5-yard run (kick good)
It was a fabulous football game and probably the best game I have seen this year. While it takes two to tango, the courageous effort of Ridgewood made this game the classic it was. Sanborn was fabulous for Union and they could have blown many teams out this way, but Ridgewood kept coming back.
Ridgewood has long been known for their ground game and they were outstanding tonight, but the passing of Tarleton to Bourque was the difference that keeps opposing defenses honest. Jim McConville of the Record and Ridgewood News flat-out told me Bourque is the best receiver Ridgewood has ever had. Their defense made plays when it mattered. Jack Wittmaack was his usual self and forced the second Union fumble that was recovered by Harrison Roberts. Roberts had a courageous performance, making plays while playing with a bad shoulder. I can go on, but the team won the game and it is a win for the ages, one people will be talking about 30 years from now. And what made it more special was winning the game for head coach Chuck Johnson who has been disabled in a hospital for weeks.
For Union, their defense was overwhelmed in the second half by Ridgewood. But Sanborn was tremendous. A three-year starter, he has had an outstanding career and will have a very good career at the D3 level, due to his size. Another who shined was junior WR/DB Desmond Igbinosun. A few of us mentioned his recruiting for next year may pick up because of this game.
It was a great game and one I am proud to have witnessed. As the game ended, all I could do was soak it in and appreciate the moment.