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Ramapo Cruises Past Wayne Hills 38-22

In a battle of the top two public high school football schools in North Jersey, No. 1 Ramapo Green Raiders (7-0) and No. 2 Wayne Hills Patriots (5-2) definitely lived up to the billing in the first half at Wayne Hills High School on Friday night in front of a raucous and jam-packed crowd.

The teams’ went back and forth, scoring early on as the Patriots took a 14-7 with 8:46 left in the second quarter on an eight-yard touchdown run by Michael Joyce. After sitting out last week’s game against Teaneck with a shoulder injury, Ramapo quarterback AJ Wingfield (16 for 24, 237 yards) displayed no rust at all,  finding wide receiver Ty Jaten (four catches, 75 yards) twice, including a nine-yard scoring pass tying up the contest at 14-14 with less than five minutes remaining.

“Nothing was going to keep me out of this game tonight, Ty and I have been out but working this week on plays,” said AJ Wingfield.

The tide really turned on Wayne Hills’ ensuing possession with Luke Robinson picking off a pass by quarterback Tom Sharkey (14 for 25, 183 yards) and returning the ball to the Patriots 35-yard line. Ramapo wasted no time taking advantage of the pick, as eight seconds later Wingfield aired out a 35-yard bomb to wide receiver Max Baker (six catches, 104 yards), fresh off a dominant 252-yard performance, falling backwards into the end zone.

Going into the locker room up 21-14, head coach Drew Gibbs message to his team was we have to finish this.

“The first half was back and forth, a ton of points on the board and Luke [Robinson] came up with a big play for us on that pick and able to cash in right away and put a little distance for us,” said Gibbs.

“AJ [Wingfield] has really matured this year as a passer and one of the best duel quarterbacks around. This year in the passing game he has done a great job. Ty Jaten and Max Baker are senior receivers and they present match-up problems for people and when you try to defend us and spread out and cover us. Toughness and finish have been two of our mantras this season.”

The Raiders responded to Gibbs message immediately in the third quarter, as Wingfield orchestrated a drive that chewed up 3:31 of the clock. Leaning heavily on running back Luke Ragone (28 carries for 154 yards) in the second half, gaining eight yards on a critical fourth and two at the Patriots 39-yard line. Despite the drive stalling at the 16, placekicker Aiden Labell booted home a 32-yard field goal.

After forcing Wayne Hills into a quick three and out, Ramapo’s offense went to work again, starting with a great field position at their own 45. Once again converting on fourth down play as Wingfield connected on a 14-yard pass to Jaten. Ragone did the rest from their bursting through the line untouched for a 21-yard touchdown with 1:27 left.

“The offensive line won us that game against a stacked defensive line and showed up and played better than them,” said Luke Ragone. “In the locker room at halftime we were all hyped up and knew we had to step on them. The fourth downs were huge and kept us driving down the field and get in the end zone.”

The Raiders defense clamped down by stopping the Patriots on a fourth down and one at the Ramapo 31-yard line early in the fourth quarter. On the first offensive possession, Ragone sprinted downfield for 51 yards to the Wayne Hills 17-yard line. Four plays later, Baker found the end zone for a second time on a jet sweep.

However, the Patriots refused to go away quietly as Charles Njoku (ten catches for 139 yards), took the ensuing kickoff back to the Ramapo 20-yard line. On a fourth and goal, Sharkey fired an eight-yard scoring pass to Njoku. Going for the two-point conversion, Sharkey found a wide-open Jaaron Hayek in the end zone making it 38-22.

Making matters more interesting, Wayne Hills recovered the onside kick. Sharkey heaved a 43-yard pass to Njoku setting up first and goal at the one, but the Raiders defense buckled down, forcing Sharkey into three straight incomplete passes to seal the win.

“I’m so proud of the way the kids played on both sides of the ball tonight,” Gibbs said. “They hung in there, battled and knew Wayne Hills wouldn’t go away and made a little run at the end but a big goal line stand the difference. The offensive line did a great job opening up holes and got us going with the running game and couple of key fourth down conversions.

“Our guys understood you have to play four quarters to win and this season they have played that way. Wayne-Hills-Ramapo has always been a special game, a great rivalry and anytime you beat them on their field it’s a special feeling for our kids and program.”

“We have been playing this team for four years and they have always come back and beaten us at the end on huge comebacks,” said Wingfield of the victory. “We really had to finish this game, a lot of adversity and proud of this team coming through and got it. One vs. Two and we knew it was going to be a battle, our team was clicking and we have so much chemistry and showed tonight.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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