Soares Battles His Way into the End Zone for Game Winning TD
SOUTH RIVER, NJ—For the second straight year, South River hosted Roselle Park at Denny Stadium, and for the second straight year, the Rams had to overcome first half struggles with a second half rally for the win. Trailing 22-19 after a three yard run early in the fourth quarter by Roselle Park’s Nasir Williams, South River put together a came winning drive capped by a 7 yard TD run by senior RB Austin Soares, who refused to go down en route to the end zone.
The Rams defense then sealed the 26-22 victory with two sacks on Roselle Park’s final offensive possession. Soares finished the game with 154 yards rushing on 21 carries for an average of 7.3 yards per rush. Soares also caught 3 passes for 44 yards or an average of 14.7 yards per reception. Soares totaled 198 yards on 24 touches, or 8.3 yards per touch.
Junior quarterback Ryan Kurtz overcame a first half injury to complete 61 percent of his passes for 195 yards, or an average of 17.7 yards per completion along with 2 touchdowns through the air and one one the ground. On the receiving end of those two TD passes was junior wideout, Jeff Ferriera, ended up with 5 catches for 129 yards, or an average of nearly 26 yards per catch.
Marcus Granadeiro anchored the defense with 9 tackles while Jordon Crawford had 4 tackles including two sacks and Jayden Harper (4 tackles) and Daquan Colbert (3 tackles) also had sacks. Ferriera and Tiago Silva also had four tackles for the winners. Placekicker Nicholas Suh made 2 of his 3 PATs. As a team, South River tallied 138 yards rushing on 31 carries and 199 yards passing for a combined 337 total yards.
Williams was a bright spot for the Panthers with three touchdowns. The first was an 85 yard kickoff return for a TD after South River’s first score of the game, next was an electrifying 65 yard TD run with three and a half minutes left in the first quarter for a 14-7 lead, and then a 15 yard TD run with 9:15 remaining in the game for a 22-19 lead.
Early on the game appeared to be headed in the direction of the Edison-Hillsborough game some 15 hours earlier. South River scored on its second play from scrimmage when Kurtz hooked up with Ferriera for a 60 yard touchdown with just 26 seconds gone by in the contest. On the ensuing kickoff, Williams took the ball, and raced back up the field 85 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
South River then took the ball on the following kickoff and drove into Roselle Park territory before Kurtz was knocked out of the game. Michael Lepore then stepped in for Kurtz and Roselle Park took advantage by deflecting a pass that turned into an interception. Moments later, Williams was off to the races after taking a handoff, ran right and eluding several South River tacklers for his first rushing score, 2nd TD of the game, and a 14-7 Roselle Park lead with 3:28 to go in the first.
Kurtz eventually returned in the game and South River settled down as it put together a scoring drive late in the second. The two big plays on the drive were passes by Kurtz. First he through a screen pass to the left toward the Rams sideline to Soares, who then scampered down the sideline before being knocked out of bounds by Williams with under a minute to go in the first half.
Moments later, Kurtz looked right, and found Ferriera for a 21 yard TD pass. South River would miss the extra point, but still pulled within one at 14-13 with 51.6 seconds to play in the first half. The score remained that way until the midway portion of the third when the Rams put together another drive that consisted of a pass play of 8 yards to Dimere Smith that appeared to be a score, but Smith stepped out of bounds, and a run by Soares to get inside the Roselle Park five yard line.
Kurtz then capped the scoring drive with a QB sneak for a touchdown, which prompted him to unleash a primal scream of joy before leaping into the arms of his teammates. South River attempted a two point conversion, but failed to convert, which left the Rams only ahead of the Panthers, 19-14 with 4:50 to play in the third. Roselle Park would answer though with Williams leading the way.
The Panthers put together a scoring drive that lasted into the early portion of the fourth quarter when Williams took a handoff and battled through tacklers until he found an opening on the left side, and burst ahead for 15 yards into the end zone. Williams then rushed the ball into the end zone again on the two point conversion for a 22-19 edge with 9:15 to play.
South River began to apply the pressure on its next drive when it drove deep into Roselle Park territory with under five minutes to play. However, the Panthers came up with another huge outstanding defensive play when a defender deflected a Kurtz pass, which Antonio Antonucci dove to catch the interception. The Rams defense responded by forcing the Panthers to go three and out, and gave the offense the ball back for one more drive.
Led by Soares, the Rams grinded their way down the field to set up the go ahead score. With under four minutes to play, South River got to the Roselle Park seven yard line. There, Kurtz handed the ball off to Soares again, who then burst through the right side of the Roselle Park line, and dragged two Panther defenders before plunging into the end zone to cap the 7 yard scoring run, and give the Rams a 26-22 lead with 3:26 to play.
Roselle Park had good field position on the ensuing kickoff, but were unable to generate any momentum. South River’s defense got a stop on first down, and then got back to back sacks by Crawford and Harper to put the Panthers in a 4th down situation. Facing fourth down and long, Roselle Park was unable to convert, and South River was able to get the turnover on downs and went into victory formation to wrap up the four point victory.
With the victory, South River concluded its season at 4-3 overall. Meanwhile, Roselle Park, which was supposed to host Roselle on Thanksgiving, but the game was postponed to the COVID-19 situation, completed its season at 2-4. Before last season, South River and Roselle Park never played each other on the football field. The Rams have won the only two meetings by a combined score of 68-49, or an average of 34-25 per contest.