It was opening night as Northern Highlands beat Hackensack, 28-19 in the delayed opening of the football season due to the Corona Virus.
Before I report the game, here is what happened that most of you should expect to see if you are able to attend a high school football game this year:
- It felt a bit surreal before the game with very few spectators – similar to being at a JV or freshman game
- The teams did not go to the locker rooms before the game or at halftime. Before the game, the teams ended warmups by going to their sidelines. At the half, Northern Highlands went to one end zone, while Hackensack went under a tent beyond the football field
- During the coin toss, only one player came out from each team, accompanied by the head coach
- There were no bands and halftime was approximately 15 minutes
- There was no concession stand, so I would not depend on having lunch or dinner at a game this year
- No postgame handshake between the teams
First Quarter: Northern Highlands got on the board on the game’s opening drive when Enzo Arjona found Nick Holle for 30 yards down the right sideline for a 7-0 lead two minutes into the game. After the teams exchanged punts, the Highlanders recovered a Hackensack fumble on the Comet 42, but ended up having to punt. Hackensack had the makings of a nice drive running the ball before punting early in the second quarter.
Second Quarter: Northern Highlands looked as if they were going to extend their lead, but penalties tripped them up, including a long run being called back, and they turned it over on downs. Hackensack got going when Jayden Robertson went 20 yards to the Highlands 35 and found Bryce Pitts for a touchdown on the following play to tie the score with 52 seconds left in the half.
Third Quarter: The Comets went in front when Jayden Smith scored a 47-yard touchdown on the jet sweep for a 13-7 lead with the extra point failing. The lead didn’t last as Nick Branca returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown and a 14-13 lead. Later in the quarter, Arjona had a long run down the left sideline and was stopped short of the goal line. He was in pain as he got up and left the game with what appeared to be a wrist injury. In addition, the play was called back on a penalty. Replacing Arjona was Kyle Major and he quickly asserted himself by connecting with #17 (not on the roster) for a 53 yard touchdown down the middle. This put the Highlanders up 21-13 with 55 seconds left in the quarter.
Fourth Quarter: Highlands went on a drive, keeping mostly on the ground, and scored on a Majors keeper of 5 yards to put the game away. Hackensack scored late when Robertson found Jaden Wimberly on a 59 yard score with less than two minutes left.