All second-seed Watchung Hills knows about next week is they won’t be getting on a bus to go anywhere.
Oh, and also the Warriors won their first home playoff game since 1978 Friday night. It was a 33-26 come-from-behind victory that tested the nerves of everyone in brown and gold, but as Doc Emrick might say, “They had ’em. All. The. Way.”
The Panthers (3-7) scored first on a nine-yard run by Frankie Verano, and after a Hills field goal by Byron McCann cut it to 7-3, they took a 13-3 lead on a 40-yard touchdown reception by Joe Spirra.
That was the first of four scores in the second quarter – two for each team – that went back and forth, sending the home team into the locker room down two at 19-17. (Bridgewater missed two point after tries, a kick and a two-point conversion.)
The game was decided in the third quarter. Watchung Hills got a two-yard TD run from senior QB Aleks Sitkowski, who also ran in the two-point try, to take a 25-19 lead. Then after a big 51-yard TD pass from Jack Bray to Anthony Confalone, Kelly Brayden caught a 35-yard TD pass from Sitkowski to make the it 33-26 Watchung Hills, with nobody getting on the board in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors had only won one home playoff game in their history. They were the top seed in the Central Jersey Group 4 playoffs in 1978, which included a four-team field, and won their opening game against fourth-seed Matawan, 14-7, before falling in the finals to third-seed JP Stevens by the same score.
That year was their first and only sectional finals appearance. Now, they’re a win away from getting back.
Watchung Hills (8-2) will play host next Friday night to etiher 6th-seed Columbia or 3rd-seedd Montclair. That game is tomorrow in Montclair at 1 pm.
Click below for postgame reaction from Watchung Hills head coach Rich Seubert: