HILLSBOROUGH: Jr. Raiders JV captures Skyland Conference title

Push record to 11-0; varsity team falls in OT of championship game

   The Hillsborough Jr. Raiders JV team (5th & 6th grades), winners of 19 straight games, are back-to-back Jr. Skyland Conference JV champions.
   The Jr. Raiders defeated the Hunterdon Central Jr. Red Devils, 16-12, on Saturday night at Warren Hills High School.
   The Hillsborough Jr. Raiders varsity (7th & 8th grades) lost its title bid when it was edged by the Ridge Jr. Devils, 14-8, in overtime, in a rematch of earlier this season.
   The Jr. Raiders varsity entered the game undefeated and had beaten the Jr. Devil team in their last three meetings, including an overtime thriller two years ago. But this would prove to be the Jr. Devils night. Both teams battled in what was a physical game between the top two programs in the Jr. Skylands Conference, an unlimited weight football league.
   It was the first time in Jr. Raider history that its two oldest-level teams were unbeaten in the regular season.

JV Jumps On Top
   The JV Raiders jumped on the Devils to open the game, with Tommy Ramsey taking the first play 61 yards. Three plays later Ramsey slammed it in from 1 yard out. He completed the “Ramsey show” by kicking an extra point to make the score 8-0.
   After forcing a Hunterdon Central punt the next series, Boro methodically marched down the field in a drive that featured an QB Andrew Rygiel sneak for a first down on a fourth-and-one situation and Matt Michinard scamper for 25 yards around right end for the second score of the game. Following another Ramsey kick, the score was 16-0 heading to halftime.
   In the second half, the Jr. Raiders withstood a furious Central assault that saw them climb back to 16-12 late in the fourth quarter. Defensively, Coordinator Paul Popaduik’s strategy kept the Red Devils bottled up most of the game. Linebackers Mike Swetz, Alex Marsh, and TJ Schultz, as well as cornerbacks Anthony Shields and Ramsey, led the way as Central tried continuously to run the edges of the Boro defense. Defensive end Kevin Klein, Shields and Michinard each came up with fourth-down stops to thwart Red Devil drives.
   The Jr. Raiders JV team wishes to thank the team parents and all the fans for their tremendous support throughout the season.

Scoreless first half
   The Hillsborough Jr. Raiders varsity’s defense held off the initial Ridge drive with a goal line stand that culminated with a fumble recovery. Hillsborough returned the favor and fumbled ball back to Ridge. Hillsborough defense led by J.R. Metallo (7 tackles), Jackson Parham (6 tackles, 1 caused fumble, 1 pass break up, 1 sack), Ryan Wheaton (6 tackles, sack), Jack Edwards and Tyler Boatwright (4 tackles) caused another fumble that was scooped up by Charles Amankwaa. The half would end on another defensive stop and Charles Amankwaa intercepted a pass and returned it to the Ridge 25-yard line before being pushed out of bounds to end a scoreless half.
   The first drive of the second half is an important drive to get the team rolling. The Jr. Raiders would start with Ryan Wheaton picking up the squib kick and returning it 20 yards to the Ridge 48-yard line. The offense, led by Matt Moore, put together a 8-play drive that include pass completions by Moore to JR Metallo, runs by Tyler Boatwright and Jackson Parham and finished by a Metallo plunge behind the offensive line anchored by Pat Vinchur, Ryan Wheaton, Nolan Washbourn, Greg Koll, Jack Edwards, Brandon Melendez and Tom Zdroik. The Metallo extra-point kick was good to put the Jr. Raiders up, 8-0.
   Ridge scored in the fourth quarter to tie the game. Hillsborough put together another drive that included converting two successful fourth-down plays. The drive ended with the Ridge defender making a great interception on the goal line. The game would go into overtime.
   Hillsborough turned the ball over on the first play of overtime. Ridge would score 4 plays later to end the ballgame and give the Jr. Raiders their first loss. The boys played their hearts out, left nothing on the field. Any one of many plays could have been the difference in the game.
   The Jr. Raiders organization is very proud of both of our Jr. Skylands football teams and all the volunteer coaches and parents that make it happen for the kids and the kids making it happen to give us all something to cheer for and have pride in. A special thanks to JV head coach Don Marsh and varsity head coach Jamie Moore.
   It is possible that Hillsborough varsity will still be invited to play in the NJ Unlimited Weight playoffs.