The Hillside Comets (9-1) offense ignited in the second half to run past the River Dell Golden Hawks (5-5) 33-13 in the North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 Semifinals at Conant Park in Hillside, New Jersey.
River Dell jumped to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Initially lined up for a field goal attempt, the Golden Hawks caught Hillside off guard, with placeholder Vin Doornheim taking the snap and running into the end zone for the score.
Late in the first half, the Comets were able to trim River Dell's advantage to 7-3 on a 27-yard field goal from placekicker Giovanni Lavoura.
In the third quarter, the Golden Hawks extended their advantage to 13-3 with less than ten minutes left. Quarterback Jake Sconza lofted a pass to the right corner of the field, with wide receiver RJ Weiss making a sensational catch as he wrested the ball away from the Hillside defensive back and hit the ground hard in the end zone but held onto the ball for the touchdown.
Hillside answered back immediately on their ensuing offensive possession. The Comets' offense marched down the field in seven plays and 70 yards culminating in a one-yard touchdown run from quarterback Caleb Salters to narrow the deficit to 13-10.
After the Hillside defense forced a three and out, a short punt provided the Comets a short field to work with at the River Dell 46-yard line.
Hillside running back Kyon Simonson's running back continued to run the ball effectively on the ground gaining 28 yards on first down. Simonson was the workhorse churning out additional yardage on the next two plays.
On first and goal at the one-yard line, Caleb Salters worked his magic again from short-range, taking the snap and stretching the ball across the goal line as Hillside went up 17-13 with less than four minutes left.
On the following Golden Hawks kickoff, a fumble led to the Comets recovering the ball at the River Dell 20-yard line. Early in the fourth quarter, Hillside appeared on the verge of scoring a touchdown for the second consecutive possession, but a fumble led to the Golden Hawks recovering the ball.
On first down, River Dell quarterback Jake Sconza attempted to run the ball but got tackled by a host of Comets defensive players in the end zone for a safety as Hillside increased its lead to 19-13.
With the Golden Hawks having to kick the ball away, the Comets offense looked to get back on track, but River Dell defensive back Phil Doornheim intercepted a Caleb Salters pass and returned the ball to the Hillside 32-yard line.
On second down and three at the Hillside 25-yard line, River Dell quarterback Jake Sconza rolled out of the pocket to his right and attempted a pass to the middle of the field, but free safety Marcus White swooped in for this second interception of the game.
The Comets' massive offensive line began to wear down the Golden Hawk's defense on the ensuing offensive possession. On a critical fourth down situation, quarterback Caleb Salters with a significant gain on a running play down to the River Dell 18-yard line.
Hillside faced another pivotal fourth down at the Golden Hawk's 15-yard line. Running back Kyon Simonson took the direct snap and followed his blockers as he barreled into the end zone for the score as the Comets extended their lead to 26-13.
River Dell attempted to correct their flaws on offense. Under heavy pressure, quarterback Jake Sconza tried to connect with a wide receiver, but defensive tackle Zaimir Hawk stepped in front of the pass and caught it. Hawk then proceeded to rumble 28 yards to the end zone to seal the Hillside 33-13 victory.
The Comets advanced to the North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 Final, where they will square off against Northern Valley Old Tappan (9-1) at Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan in Old Tappan, New Jersey on Friday, November 11th with kickoff set for 6 p.m.