PISCATAWAY – Seeking their fourth state title and first since 2005, the Panthers of Point Pleasant Boro got things going on a long day at High Point Solutions Stadium on Saturday in the Central Group II title game, but fell to Hillside, 20-13. It was the Comets’ first state championship since 1985.
“This is not the outcome we wanted, but we have a great group of kids and great senior leadership,” Point Boro head coach Matt Cilento said. “They put this program where it’s at right now.”
Four plays after senior Tajae Irby connected with Charles Amissah for a 71-yard gain to end the first quarter, sophomore Nahree Biggins got the scoring going for Hillside with a two-yard touchdown of fourth and goal with 9:47 remaining in the first half to give the Comets a 6-0 lead after the extra point attempt was no good.
Turnovers proved costly for Point Boro early on. After driving down to the Hillside 20-yard line, they fumbled a snap, and Hillside’s Elijah Cotton emerged from the pile with the ball. That turnover did not lead to any points for Hillside, but an interception by Biggins gave the Comets one more chance to add to their lead before the half with 1:16 remaining, and they did just that.
It was Biggins once again, getting the ball on the screen and going all the way 36 yards to the end zone with just seven seconds remaining. James Lewis converted the two-point conversion and Hillside went into the locker room with a 14-0 lead.
Hillside received the second half kickoff and wasted little time extending their lead. Junior Shadon Willis hauled in a long 34-yard reception and ran four yards untouched on the jet sweep to the end zone with 8:54 in the third quarter, extra point was no good, giving Hillside a 20-0 lead. They would take that lead into the fourth quarter.
Point Boro cracked the scoreboard with 6:51 left in the game when senior James Fara found a wide-open junior Kyle Komanitsky for a 26-yard score. The extra point was no good, to make it a 20-6 game. The Panthers recovered the onside kick, but the turnover bug came back to bite Point Boro again as junior Boris Nicolas-Paul intercepted Fara and gave Hillside possession with just over four and a half minutes remaining.
Point Boro scored again late in regulation as Fara scrambled in himself from seven yards out on fourth down with 42 seconds left, but Hillside recovered the ensuing onside kick and walked away with the 20-13 victory and its first state title in 32 years.
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