It came down to the final seconds, but New Jersey’s Morristown Beard hung on for a 41-40 victory this weekend, handing the Riverdale Country Falcons their first loss.
“The kids played very, very hard,” Riverdale head coach Joe Otero said. “You know, they played their heart out, and unfortunately they didn’t come up with a win. A one-point loss is kind of tough. We thought we had them.”
Riverdale came out strong in the first half, scoring 16 unanswered points. The first touchdown came by way of a 70-yard passing play from quarterback Ryan Rosenzweig to wide receiver Ernie Robertson.
The other score was another long Rosenzweig pass, this time of 60 yards to junior wide receiver Toby Edelstein.
“We started off strong early, but we got killed on defense, and that turned out to be the story of the game,” Edelstein said. “We gave up 41 points and just couldn’t come back.”
Morristown punched in a lone touchdown before the mid-game break, but the second half did anything but mimic the first. The visitors tacked on the first score of the third quarter, quickly trimming Riverdale’s lead to 16-14.
Beard’s inability to convert on PAT attempts set them back early, but later proved to earn a victory.
“We have to work on special teams, we have to work on defense, and we have to work on two-point conversions,” Edelstein said. “Those were the things that killed us today.”
Morristown’s Ryan Russo returned a kick for a touchdown in the beginning of the fourth quarter to pull the Crimson within 21-20, and the game momentum was most definitely shifting.
With six minutes left to play, Morristown scored yet again, taking their first lead at 28-22.
“We have to fix special teams,” Otero said. “Our kick-off coverage got us into some hot water, we gave up two or three scores.”
Riverdale quickly knotted the game at 28 off of a keeper by Rosenzweig, but Ernie Robertson was unable to convert the two-point try for the lead.
The Crimson scored on their next possession, however a blocked PAT attempt kept Riverdale in striking distance at 34-28, with just over 4 minutes left to play.
Strong ball movement from Riverdale running back Jeffrey Barrett brought the Falcons to the Beard 20-yard line, leading to another Rosenzweig rushing touchdown. The two-point try missed once again, leaving the score tied at 34 with just a minute remaining.
Using nearly all of the time left, Morristown added another score and a successful kick through the uprights for a 41-34 lead with just 13 seconds remaining. But that was enough for Rosenzweig who targeted Robertson twice on the final drive to get within striking distance.
With a single second remaining on the clock, Rosenzweig teamed with Robertson one last time on a 30-yard scoring play that saw the wide receiver go full extension for the catch to pull Riverdale within, 41-40.
“I just had to show up for my team, do what I could do for the team,” Robertson said. “You can’t control everything, obviously, but we all do what we can to win.”
But the Falcons were unable to convert the two-point conversion, and that was enough to hand Riverdale its first loss of the season.
“It’s obviously a tough loss,” Robertson said. “No matter how you play in the game it’s always the end result that really matters most.”
Otero knows there’s some things he’d like to adjust with his young team, but doesn’t see this mark in the loss column as armageddon.
“Losing 41-40 to a good football team is not exactly the worst thing in the world, but we need to fix some things and get better,” he said. “We got to make some adjustments, and we’ll do so.”