North Hunterdon Wins Wild One for Title, 49-35

North Hunterdon’s Danny Delusant scampers up the sideline in the second quarter against Randolph in the 2022 NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2 Group 4 Championship at Singley Field on Saturday.

Lions Outlast Randolph for 1st Sectional Championship Since 2017

ANNANDALE, NJ—Some say that it is Defense that Wins Championships.  However, in the 2022 NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2 Group 4 Championship Game at Singley Field between top seeded North Hunterdon and second seeded Randolph, it was offense that paved the way to glory.  Both teams combined to score 84 points including 49 in the fourth quarter, and it was North Hunterdon that emerged victorious from the wild offensive onslaught.

The Lions jumped out to a 14-0 lead, and then scored 35 of the last 56 points including 28 in the final period to defeat the Rams, 49-35, and win its first sectional championship in five years.  Senior QB Luke Martini led the way for the winners with a memorable performance.  Martini completed 17 of 27 passes for 411 yards and 5 TDs.  Teammate and senior wideout, Danny Delusant turned in an incredible effort with 5 receptions for 205 yards, or an average of 41 yards per catch along with 3 TDs.

Senior WR/DB Danny Delusant caught 5 passes for 205 yards to help lead North Hunterdon past Randolph in the 2022 NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2 Group 4 Championship on Saturday.

North Hunterdon’s other wide receiver, Derek Vaddis, who had a superb performance against Morris Knolls with 5 catches for 137 yards and 2 TDs last week, turned in another huge game.  Vaddis led all receivers with a team high 8 receptions for 163 yards, or 20.4 yards per catch, and 2 TDs in the win over Randolph.   Kente Edwards ran wild in the second half, and finished with 19 carries for 121 yards and a TD.

Although there were times that defensive players on both sides failed to catch their breath in the frantic fourth quarter, some like North Hunterdon’s linebacker, Alex Uryniak still managed to make an impact.  Uryniak, who collected 21 total tackles in the win over Morris Knolls in the semifinal round last week, racked up another 18 in this contest to average 19.5 tackles per game in the last two playoff rounds.

In addition to his big day on offense, Delusant also chipped in on defense with 8 tackles.  Christian Brand, Greg Rayl, and Hunter Vos combined to collect 2.5 sacks.  North Hunterdon placekicker, Ben Cleary was perfect in extra points by making all 7 of his attempts.  Sean Clark fought valiantly in defeat for Randolph.  Clark completed 21 of 44 passes for 264 yards, and 5 TDs.  Neither he nor Martini threw an interception.

Ryan Novak led all Randolph receivers with 7 catches for 67 yards and a TD.  Jake Jenisch and James Kleiven each chipped in with 3 receptions with Jenisich collecting 94 receiving yards and Kleiven picking up 61 yards.  Both added touchdowns as well.  With both teams struggling to stop the pass, especially in the fourth quarter, one of the keys might have been North Hunterdon’s ability to shut down Randolph’s running game.

After yielding the bulk of Morris Knolls’ 179 yards rushing in the opening quarter of its semifinal contest a week ago, North Hunterdon has put on the clamps to their opponents rushing attack.  On Saturday, the Lions, led by the likes of Uryniak, Tyler Anderson (8 tackles), Delusant, Brand, Rayl, Vos, Edwards, Vaddis, and Andrew Schenkel (7 tackles), limited Randolph to just 46 yards on 27 carries, or only 1.7 yards per rush.

Clark and Martini looked like they were Joe Namath and Johnny Unitas going back and forth in their memorable game on September 24, 1972.  Randolph and North Hunterdon’s signal callers combined to complete 38 of 71 pass attempts for 675 yards and 10 TDs with no interceptions.  Clark threw at least one completion to 8 different receivers while Martini connected with 4 different wideouts.  

The game started out modestly with neither team getting on the board until the final seconds of the first quarter.  Randolph moved the ball well on its first drive, and was within striking distance, but were stopped on downs after a diving Edwards knocked away a Clark pass for the end zone.  North Hunterdon managed to draw first blood when Martini threw a 49 yard TD pass to Vaddis for a 7-0 lead with 8.8 seconds left in the opening frame.

After stopping Randolph on its next offensive series at the start of the second quarter, North Hunterdon actually scored three times on its next offensive possession.  The Lions first two scores including a screen pass to Delusant on the right side were negated by penalty.  Martini would find Delusant again though off a scramble for a 93 yard TD pass, and a 14-0 Lions lead with 9:35 left in the first half.

The Rams battled back by scoring the next 14 points to tie the contest.  First, Randolph put together a solid drive capped by a two yard TD pass from Clark to James Kratochvil with 3:30 to go in the second.  North Hunterdon did manage to get into scoring position before the end of the half as Vaddis hauled in several catches including one inside Randolph’s one yard line in the closing seconds.  However, the Rams defense prevented the Lions from getting in as time ran out.

Stopping North Hunterdon on its first offensive series of the second half, Randolph got the ball back and put together another solid drive capped by a Clark pass over the middle to Kleiven for a 43 yard TD to knot the game at 14-14 with 4:38 left in the third.  The Lions would take control again, and for good with a drive of under three and a half minutes capped by a 19 yard TD pass from Martini to Vaddis for a 21-14 lead with 52.1 seconds to go in the third.

The Lions then went back up by two scores again in the beginning of the fourth after halting Randolph’s ensuing drive.  Once again, it was Martini finding Delusant along North Hunterdon’s sideline for a 28-14 lead with 10:57 remaining.  At this point in the game, Martini had already compiled 331 yards passing and 4 TDs.  Randolph quickly struck back though with a flea-flicker that resulted in a 29 yard TD to Novak for a 28-21 Lions lead with 10:44 to play.

Using a blend of Edwards quick and powerful running and his passing, Martini continued to keep North Hunterdon in control with another solid drive of less than a minute capped by a 25 yard pass to Delusant in the end zone for a 35-21 advantage with 9:40 to go.  Less than 40 seconds later, Clark answered Martini with a quick 64 yard strike down the middle of the field to Jenisich for another score to close the gap to 35-28 with 8:58 remaining.

With Randolph hot on its trail, North Hunterdon was unwilling to take its foot off the gas on offense.  Instead, Martini and Edwards combined for another efficient drive that included a pass completion to Anderson at the two yard line.  Edwards then scored on a two yard run for a 42-28 lead with 5:58 remaining.  To their credit though, the Rams refused to quit, and actually had a chance to tie the game again late.

On its next offensive possession, Randolph deftly moved down the field again with Clark connecting with Jenisich again for a 14 yard TD pass to pull the Rams within a score once more at 42-35 with 4:27 left.  Moments later, Randolph recovered an onsides kick produced by Aidan Flowers (5 of 5 PATs), and was in position to tie the game.  Fortunately for the Lions’ faithful, North Hunterdon’s defense prevented that from happening.

The Lions defense came up with their two sacks in the contest with everything on the line, and stopped Clark and the potent Randolph offense on downs.  North Hunterdon then took the ball down the field with runs from Edwards and Uryniak to put the game way.  Uryniak sealed the championship when he tumbled into the end zone from three yards out for a 49-35 Lions’ lead with 1:24 to go.

With the victory, North Hunterdon improved to 11-1 overall on the season, and will now play Northern Highlands in the NJSIAA North Jersey Group 4 Regional Championship, or state semifinal in Franklin Township next Saturday evening at 5:30 PM.  Northern Highlands, which lost to Irvington at Rutgers in last year’s regional final, defeated Ramapo for the second time this season (49-42) to win the North Jersey Section 1 Group 4 title last Thursday night.  

It was the third time in the past 12 months that Northern Highlands defeated Rampo.  Going back to the 2019 football season, Northern Highlands is 6-0 versus teams from the Big Central.  The Highlanders have outscored their BCC opponents by a margin of 242-95, or an average of 40-16 per game.  Northern Highlands has defeated Colonia (40-7) and Woodbridge (37-7) in 2019, Union (45-35) in 2020, Somerville (32-20) and Montgomery (61-14) in 2021, and Montgomery (27-12) in 2022.