UNION -- When it comes to state tournament football there’s no shame in losing to good teams that have great players. The Hilltoppers had a terrific season but they had not come against a team as good as Madison and a player as talented as Justin Goodwin in some time.
Madison’s junior tailback put on a show, rushing for 164 yards and two touchdowns and passing for another score to lift Madison to a 47-7 victory over Summit to capture the North 2, Group II state title on Friday night on the turf at Kean University.
Summit completed its season at 11-1. A four-yard sweep by Kyr’e Negron with 6:26 left in the second quarter was the Hilltoppers only score. It made it a 19-7 game after Mike Badgley nailed the extra point.
The second quarter became the undoing for the Hilltoppers. Madison (12-0) exploded for 27 points to take a 33-6 halftime advantage. The Dodgers, which captured their second consecutive state title, played blistering defense and never let Summit quarterback Ryan Bringewatt have enough time to throw even while the Hilltoppers utilized their no-huddle offense.
Summit coach John Liberato had no excuses afterwards and praised his opponents for their performance.
“That’s a great Madison team,’’ Liberato said. “We did not underestimate them. We wanted to play our best game today. I think they played their best game today. They have a lot of weapons and their offensive lines and defensive lines did an outstanding job.
We knew they were well coached. They are a big, strong team and we tried our best.’’
Bringewatt completed 7 of 21 passes for 119 yards and Summit rushed for 60 yards from scrimmage, but rarely did the Hilltoppers have a consistent offensive presence.
Summit started the game off well. On the games opening drive, Badgley got a good return to the Madison 40. However, the drive stalled and Badgley’s 44-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.
The Hilltoppers’ defense was able to force a Madison punt on its first series but the game’s momentum changed the next time Summit had the ball. Bringewatt was trying to hit receiver Luke Stephens with a long, looping pass that Goodwin picked off at the Madison 40. Goodwin returned the ball about 30 yards to the Summit 31. On the very next play Goodwin took a handoff from quarterback Carson Lassiter, rolled to his right and through a halfback option pass to Joe Penney-Hadeywicz who found the right side of the end zone to make it a 6-0 game with 6:35 left in the quarter.
“He’s the real deal,’’ Liberato said. “That kid is the real deal.’’
Because defenses have to be concerned with Goodwin’s speed and cutting ability it opens up opportunities for other Madison playmakers like Lassiter and fullback Shone Register to make plays, too. Register scored twice and Lassiter rushed for one touchdown and connected with Ben Anderson for another score.
“They do a lot of things well,’’ Liberato said. “That’s why they are state champions.’’
Summit’s lone offensive bright spot occurred in the midst of the Dodgers’ second quarter explosion. It was a 66-yard drive that included a 20-yard pass from Bringewatt to Luke Stephens and a 36-yard pass from Bringewatt to Negron. Negron was stopped at the Madison 4-yard line to complete the long pass play, but the junior back scored on the next play on a sweep to the right to make it 19-7.
It wouldn’t get any better for the Hilltoppers. Madison scored on its next two possessions to build an insurmountable 33-7 halftime lead.
“We tried every play in our book. It just didn’t work,’’ Liberato said. “You have to give them a lot of credit. Our kids fought hard. They were better than us. ‘’
Although it wasn’t the ending it wanted, Summit was proud of the season it had. The Hilltoppers fell one game short of their goal. The quest for next year’s title starts today.
“Football is a game of life,’’ Liberato said. “There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs. We invested a lot of time and we didn’t come up with the ultimate goal. It’s going to hurt and sting a little bit but we’re going to be stronger and better people for it later on. We’re going to be classy enough to congratulate the better team and that was Madison today.’’