MONMOUTH JCT. – Senior T.J. Perkowski led South Brunswick past Hillsborough 35-21 in the quarterfinals of the Central Group V state tournament. Perkowski ran for a 63-yard touchdown and passed a 57-yarder just before halftime, helping lead the Vikings into a semifinal matchup with Old Bridge in two weeks.
“It was definitely hard coming off a three-week break, but we picked it up,” Perkowski said. “It was huge to get those touchdowns right before the half and it really helped us put them away and pick up the win.”
The Vikings put the game away in the second half, playing solid defense and locking down on John Banaciski, who was ripping them apart in the opening 24 minutes. South Brunswick opened the half with a 4-play, 57-yard drive, capped off by a Darhae Ford 5-yard touchdown run. Ford rushed for 34 yards on the drive, with a 17 yarder and a 12 yarder spliced in. Ford finished the game with 152 yards on the ground and had 16 yards receiving as well.
The Raiders quickly got a touchdown of their own, going 10 plays and covering 68 yards of pasture. Banaciski toted the rock four times on the drive, but it was an Andrew Zitel 13-yard touchdown pass to Tyshon Murdock that ended the possession. But that would be the final time that Hillsborough found the end zone in the game, as the Vikings offense locked down over the final 18 minutes and change, limiting the Raiders to just 52 yards the rest of the day.
Dontae Strickland polished off the South Brunswick offensive output with a 10-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Strickland finished the game with 85 yards of offense.
Banaciski was a workhorse for Hillsborough, carrying the ball 27 times and adding two catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.
The Raiders got themselves on the board just 25 seconds into the game, using a big catch-and-run from Zitel to Banaciski. The junior quarterback dumped the ball off to Banaciski, who did the rest, going 73 yards down the middle of the field, putting Hillsborough up 7-0.
They held that advantage until the very end of the first quarter, when South Brunswick took over on a short field. After Zitel was intercepted by Amir Johnson at the Hillsborough 26, the Vikings needed just six plays to find the end zone. Dahrae Ford pounded the ball in from two yards out, knotting the score at 7-7.
The two teams traded punts to open the second quarter, but Hillsborough went on a long 13-play, 85-yard drive, using Banaciski’s legs to carve up the South Brunswick defense. The tailback rushed 10 times on the drive and finished the drive with a two-yard plunge, giving the Raiders the lead again.
But on the very next offensive play, Perkowski bounced off the left side and went 63 yards for a South Brunswick touchdown, re-tying the score. The Raiders went three-and-out on the ensuing possession and South Brunswick took over at their own 8 with 1:06 to play in the half. Ford opened the drive with a 31-yard run, hurdling a defender along the way, to get South Brunswick up to their own 39. Three plays later, Perkowski hit Dion Hooper for a 57-yard catch-and-run, putting the Vikings up 21-14 with just 14 seconds left in the opening half.
South Brunswick is just two wins away from capturing a state championship, something that Perkowski said has driven the team all season long.
“We wanted to do that last year, but obviously we didn’t get there and we worked our butts off to get back to that spot,” he said.