A semifinal chapter of Friday night lights saw the Mt. Olive Marauders travel up to Ramapo to take on the Raiders on a beautiful November evening in Franklin Lakes. The Marauders came in off a last second win against rival Roxbury on the road. The Raiders overcame a 10-point halftime deficit against their rival Northern Highlands. Fans from both schools piled into Drew Gibbs field anxiously, awaiting the opening kick. Charlie Wingfield raised his hand up in the air, trotted up and booted the ball into the Jersey night.
With both offenses starting the game with 3-and-outs, it was Ramapo who got on the board first. The Raiders were able to get the ball into Mt. Olive territory behind star quarterback Landon De Prima and a passing game that was missing De Prima’s top target Zach Schnorrbusch. With Schnorrbush out, De Prima favored senior receiver Brandon Del Valle for most of the night. It was James Magerko, however, who hauled in a screen pass and took it 20 yards into the end zone putting the Raiders up 7-0.
The Marauders for most of the first half had issues finishing their drives off. They were able to move the ball on the ground, but Jake Asbury and the passing game could not get much going. Mt. Olive's defense kept Ramapo off the scoreboard after Wingfield’s FG attempt sailed wide left.
With the first half winding down, the Marauders faced a 4th and 15 in Ramapo territory still trailing 7-0. Head coach Brian O’Connor kept his offense out on the field and trusted his junior quarterback to make a play. Asbury found his receiver just beyond the sticks to move the chains and keep the drive alive. A few plays later, Tyler Cumming bullied his way into the end zone, tying the game as the first half ended.
The Raiders received the ball to start the 2nd half and wasted no time moving down the field. After converting on a big 4th down deep in Maraurder territory, De Prima connected with fellow Senior Jackson Cooney for a 15-yard touchdown putting Ramapo up early in the second half 14-7.
When the Mt. Olive offense took the field for the first time in the 2nd half, they rolled out their wildcat offense with senior Adam DeCristofaro lined up in the shotgun and Cumming by his side. DeCristofaro could not get a handle on the ball and the Raiders quickly jumped on it to recover the fumble and take possession.
The Marauders' defense forced a punt to give Mt. Olive the ball at their own 25-yard line looking to get something going and swing the momentum back in their favor. For the second straight drive, Asbury stayed on the sideline and DeCristofaro came in to run the wildcat after the first drive ended in disaster. O’Connor clearly saw something in the first half because the wildcat offense worked like a charm the second time around. DeCristofaro kept the snap and took off to the left side bolting down the sideline for a 43-yard touchdown run. Izzy Kolbucz’s PAT was blocked and Ramapo clung to a 14-13 lead in the 3rd.
The Raiders quickly were able to extend their lead with 18 seconds left in the 3rd quarter, De Prima rolled to his left and found Wingfield in the back of the end zone from two yards out to extend the Ramapo lead to 21-13. Winfield added a 33-yard field goal to his night and the Marauders had their backs against the wall trailing 24-13 with 9:51 left in the game.
If there is one thing that we have learned about this Mt. Olive team this year it’s that they never panic. Down two scores with under 10 minutes left in the game, it was now or never for the Marauders to put together a scoring drive. It took a few 3rd and 4th down conversions, but with 4:38 left in regulation, Cumming powered his way in from eight yards out to give Mt. Olive a chance. After a failed two-point conversion, it was up to the defense to stop De Prima and the Raiders to give Mt. Olive a final chance.
The Marauders forced a punt and their offense started moving the ball down the field as fans had memories of last week's game winning drive. Like last week, Mt. Olive faced a long 4th down in order to keep the drive and their season alive. Trying to catch the Raiders off guard, they ran a draw play to their workhorse Cumming, but the Raiders stonewall defense stopped him short to turn the ball over on downs.
De Prima and company trotted out and it was victory formation for Ramapo who continues their magical season as they advanced to the Group 4 Final to take on 3rd ranked Mainland in two weeks down at Rutgers. De Prima finished the game throwing three touchdowns for the Raiders and Cumming rushed for two touchdowns for Mt. Olive.
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