An interception, and a scoop and score on a fumble were the key plays by West Essex Saturday afternoon, costing top-seed Summit a berth in the North 2, Group 3 title game next weekend.
Summit (7-3) fell 27-17 to the Knights at Tatlock Field, making them the fourth No. 1 seed in the public school playoffs to be eliminated in the sectional semifinals, joining Park Ridge, Timber Creek, and Caldwell, which also had its state-best 37-game winning streak snapped in the process.
West Essex (8-3) will host the North 2, Group 3 final next Friday night, welcoming in sixth-seed Passaic Valley (7-2) , which topped 7th-seed Montville Friday night in the other semifinal in the section, 28-13.
Summit built a 14-0 first-half lead thanks to a two-yard touchdown pass from Jake Procaccini to Cole Sabol late in the first quarter, and a Carter Shallcross two-yard touchdown jaunt midway through the second period, but West Essex got within a score on the ensuing possession, on a 25-yard touchdown connection from Jorden Simeone to Sam Long, making it 14-7 Hilltoppers at the break.
But after the half, the Knights roared back. First, they picked off Procaccini, with Max Garcia returning the pick 50 yards for a score to tie it at 14 with 6:55 to play in the third. And after a 39-yard field goal by Seamus Brown got Summit back in the lead by three in the final minute of the third quarter, a couple of repeat performances put West Essex ahead again for good.
First, the Long-Simeone connection struck again to make it 21-14 West Essex early in the fourth. Then, Max Garcia scored again, this time on special teams, scooping a fumbled punt and returning it 38 yards to paydirt to make it 27-17 Knights with 4:27 left.
As Summit tried to rally, a second pick – this one by Anthony Drago – sealed the game for West Essex.
It leaves two Big Central teams left to play in title games next weekend. In North 2, Group 5, Phillipsburg will face Union City at home Friday night, while Bernards will entertain Lakeland in the North 2, Group 2 final.