The old saying “defense wins championships” proved itself right this past weekend as the top seeded Hillsborough Junior Raiders Varsity Gold team took home the hardware and claimed yet another championship, when it defeated the Hunterdon Central Falcons, 25-19, in front of a packed home crowd.
Hillsborough only allowed 56 yards rushing on 33 attempts, 12 of which were for negative yards. And although they gave up 137 yards in the air, it was the three interceptions by Mike Caporaso, one for a touchdown, and his tremendous hits that helped the Raiders’ defense close the curtain on the Falcons.
On the other side of the ball, they say “You can’t win if you don’t score”. It was Ryan Tasetano that took center stage for Hillsborough on offense. Tasetano caught 4 passes from Mike Miller for a total of 127 yards, including touchdown scores of 33 and 62 yards. Miller threw for a total of 142 yards to receivers Ryan Tasetano and Austin Quandt, and running backs Mike Caporaso and Nick West.
The Raiders knew it would be a battle, as the Falcons were looking for revenge of the 22-0 loss to Hillsborough earlier in the season. The first series ended in four plays when the Raiders turned the ball over on downs with a failed fake punt. The Falcons then started moving the ball, but Caporaso snatched a Falcon pass out of the air and returned it 73 yards, only to find out it was coming back due to a block in the back penalty on the return.
With the interception, Hillsborough got the ball on the Hunterdon Central 45 yard line, and started building momentum. A couple runs by Caporaso, passes to Austin Quandt and Tasetano, and a few penalties in between, led to fourth and 17 for the Raiders. Going for it on fourth down, Mike Miller got chased out of the pocket and began scrambling as he looked for someone to throw to. Tasetano came streaking across the field trying to shake his defender, and Miller hit him in stride. Tasetano headed for the sideline and turned the jets on, scoring from 33 yards out. The PAT Kick was no good, and the score remained, 6-0.
On Hunterdon Central’s next possession, they began pounding the ball on the ground. But Mike Caporaso shot the gap from linebacker and drilled the Falcon running back, forcing a fumble, to be recovered by Brendon Lobelo. Hillsborough got the ball back on their own 48 yard line, and after a short pass to West and a few more penalties, Miller threw a 62-yard bomb to Tasetano for their second score. After the successful PAT Pass from Miller to Tasetano, the score was now 13-0.
Hillsborough’s defense was rock solid on the next series, not allowing a yard. Caporaso and Dominic Monsorno each had pounding hits for losses, and Shane Donoghue brought down the Hunterdon Central QB for a 10-yard loss and a sack. On 4th and 22, the Falcons fumbled the snap, and Donoghue came a fingernail length away from scoring a Safety. As the Falcons scrambled out of the endzone, Nick West made the tackle at the 2-yard line for an 11-yard loss and a turnover on downs. On the very next play, Dominic Monsorno barreled it in for the score and a 19-point lead.
Hunterdon Central tried moving the ball on their next possession, but with a sack by Joe Witcoski, and stuffs by Shane Donoghue, and Brendan and Jonathan Lobelo, the Falcons were forced to go for it on 4th and 10. A 29-yard pass caught over the top of Hillsborough’s defender got them the first down, and they then scored from 18 out on a pass to their back left alone in the flats. A blocked PAT Kick left the score 19-6.
Hillsborough got sacked on fourth down and seven 4th on the next possession, turning the ball over on downs, but Mike Caporaso came to the rescue again. On the Falcons’ first play, Caporaso intercepted and ran the ball back 29 yards. However, three incomplete passes by the Raiders ended the first half.
The Falcons came out flat in the second half, and turned the ball over on downs after getting stopped by Brendan Lobelo and Ryan Tasetano on fourth and a yard. The Raiders couldn’t do much better on their first possession of the second half, gaining only two yards on two runs, and an incomplete pass. A punt on fourth down pushed the Falcons back to their own 28 yard line. And on the very next play, Superhero Mike Caporaso came out of nowhere to swipe the ball, and return it 34 yards for another Hillsborough touchdown. The PAT run was not successful, but the score stood at 25-6.
Hunterdon Central and Hillsborough exchanged punts on the next two series, then to start the fourth quarter, Hunterdon Central put some gas in the tank. Their first sustained drive led to a touchdown on the 10th play, narrowing the score to 25-13, with the PAT pass completion.
Just when things were looking up for the Falcons, things were looking down for the Raiders. Three short runs and a Delay of Game penalty forced Hillsborough to punt on 4th and 9. Then a botched snap led to a 22-yard loss, and Hillsborough gave the ball up on their own 41 yard line. A 37-yard pass by the Falcons and a Pass Interference call on the Raiders gave Hunterdon Central the ball on the 2. A quick punch in brought the score to 25-19.
With a minute and change on the clock, an onside kick by the Falcons almost gave them the chance to tie the game. But the ball was shoved out of bounds as both teams fought for the ball, and Hillsborough got possession, running the clock out. The Raider’s defense prevailed and secured the title for the fourth straight year.
Leading the Raiders were Dominic Monsorno with 11 tackles, followed by Mike Caporaso with 10, Mike Guiliano with eight, Jonathan Lobelo with seven, Shane Donoghue, Brendan Lobelo, and Ryan Tasetano, each with five, Nick West with four, and Dilon Cace, Austin Quandt, Christian Quandt, Peter Quandt, and Joe Witcoski all added tackles to support the defense.
With this victory, Hillsborough locked up the undefeated season and the No. 1 ranking in the state of New Jersey. This would not have happened without the hard work, dedication, and fantastic play by all:
Defensive Linemen Brendan Lobelo, Carson DeRoner, Christian Quandt, Vinny Castellano, Bryan Nasty Nastawa, Defensive Ends Nick West and Shane Donoghue, Linebackers Iron Mike Guiliano, Dominic Monsorno, Jonathan Lobelo, Joe Witcoski, Peter Quandt, and Defensive Backs Mike Caporaso, Austin Quandt, Dilon Cace, and Ryan Tasetano.
Offensive Linemen Bryan Nastawa, Pearce Skala, Mike Guiliano, Brendan Lobelo, Carson DeRoner, Shane Donoghue, Center Ryan Leary, Receivers Ryan Tasetano, Dilon Cace, Austin Quandt, Charlie Volpe, Running Backs Mike Caporaso, Dominic Monsorno, Nick West, Peter Quandt, and last but not certainly least Quarterbacks Mike Miller and Austin Quandt.
Hats off to Charlie Volpe who threw his body out there for his team, literally. We all want to wish him the best of luck with his upcoming surgery and hope for a quick recovery.
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