SUMMIT – The visitors came back from a three-touchdown deficit and were on the verge of pulling even closer as the fourth quarter reached the midway point.
Suddenly the home team was on its heels a bit and needed a stop.
Having already done so in the first half Summit senior linebacker Jack Kelly was more than happy to deliver once more.
Rahway senior quarterback Jakir Robinson scrambled a bit, looking for an open receiver. His pass, intended to reach a target over the middle, was once again picked off.
Again it was Kelly who came up with the interception.
“I just read my keys and made a play on the ball,” Kelly said.
Three plays later senior teammate Max Jackson broke free for a 70-yard touchdown run down the left sideline.
Summit survived and then thrived in large part to a performance No. 5 will never forget. Kelly produced two interceptions, both leading to Summit touchdowns, and caused a fumble that led to the final Hilltopper score, which he made on a reception.
Kelly’s heroics sparked top-seeded Summit to decisive 36-14 victory over third-seeded Rahway in Sunday afternoon’s North 2, Group 3 state championship game at Tatlock Field.
Summit won its fifth straight to improve to 10-1, while Rahway had a nine-game winning streak snapped and fell to 9-2.
Summit won 10 games for the first time since its last state championship team finished 12-0 in 2013.
Junior running back Joe Lusardi turned in a three-touchdown effort, all scores coming in the first half – the first on a short run and the last two on receptions.
Senior quarterback Skyler Schluter threw three touchdown passes, including his final one while escaping the heavy pressure of two oncoming rushers.
Summit captured its ninth state championship in the playoff era and fifth in North 2, Group 3. Summit’s previous two state titles were in N2, G3 in 2012 and 2013.
For head coach Kevin Kostibos this was the second time he led the Hilltoppers to a state championship. The first was in his initial season at the helm in 2013.
Summit will next play North 1, Group 3 state champion Ramapo (12-0) in Saturday’s 10 a.m. Bowl Game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. I guess it will be called the North, Group 3 Bowl Game. Nobody knows for sure yet.
“For us it will be icing on the cake,” Kostibos said. “We’re going to enjoy this for awhile and then start to prepare.
“Our goals were to win our division and then a state championship and we accomplished both.”
Summit captured its second state championship at home and first since 1993. This was only the third state championship game played at Tatlock Field and the first since 1995.