PLAINFIELD – Joe Schultz hit Jimmy Suseck for a 17-yard touchdown pass with 3:44 left to complete a stunning comeback, lifting the Hillsborough High School football team to a 22-18 victory over Plainfield on Saturday afternoon at Hub Stine Field.
The Raiders scored the game’s final 22 points after yielding three touchdowns in the opening quarter, and ended their third two-game losing streak of the season.
Schultz finished 15-24 for 196 yards and two touchdowns for Hillsborough (3-6), leading his squad up and down the field in the second half as sunlight faded and nighttime crept in.
“We couldn’t see at the end of the game, but we had some guys making clutch plays,” Hillsborough head coach Kevin Carty Jr. said. “I’m really, really happy for our guys. We’ve had a lot of games this season like this where we’ve come up a little bit short, so to finish one off really means a lot to these guys. They deserve it.”
Hillsborough took less than three minutes out of the half to march down the field and get its offense going, using the legs of Kyle Kauffman to get inside the red zone. Kauffman, who ran for 43 yards on 13 carries, busted off a big 27-yard run on the drive and capped the series with a 1-yard touchdown plunge at the 9:39 mark of the third quarter.
After the Raiders held Plainfield (1-7) on downs, Hillsborough embarked on a 13-play, 88-yard drive that lasted over six minutes. Schultz hit Suseck for 15 to pick up a big first down early on and then connected on back-to-back 18-yard completions, one to Jackson Parham and then to Kauffman for a touchdown, bringing the Raiders within one score. Schultz hit Parham for the two-point conversion, cutting the lead to 18-15.
“Joe is a clutch player and a good athlete. Our guys have made plays throughout the year, but he was hot in the second half,” Carty Jr. said. “Our receivers made great plays like always and Joe was tough and competitive and I was really happy with him today. Offense played a lot better in the second half.”
Plainfield worked the ball down into the Hillsborough red zone on the ensuing possession, but quarterback Jayson Bryant fumbled a snap at the 20, giving the ball back to the Raiders.
But the Cardinals looked to swipe momentum right back as Jaleel Simmons picked off Schultz on the second play of the drive and appeared to have a return touchdown, but it was wiped out due to a penalty and on 4th down, after two false start penalties, Bryant threw incomplete and turned it back to Hillsborough with 6:44 left.
The Raiders needed only three minutes from there to take their first and only lead of the day, as Schultz hit on four straight attempts on the drive, the final one coming to Suseck in between two defenders in the corner of the end zone.
Plainfield’s last gasp effort got across midfield, but stalled when Bryant missed on three straight passes, including fourth down, sealing it for the Raiders.
“We just had to know that if we played the way we’re capable, we were going to come back in this game,” Carty Jr. said. “We played really tough on defense; Plainfield got a couple of big plays on us, but we put our defense in some bad spots because of turnovers, and when they had to go the whole field, our defense was able to lock down.”
Bryant set up all three Plainfield touchdowns in the first quarter, starting with hitting Simmons for a 64-yard catch-and-run on the game’s opening play before Jason Cisson dove in from 1 yard out. Bryant scrambled for a 13-yard score on 4th-and-goal from the 13 and hit Simmons for 35 to set up another Cisson score, this one from 3 yards out.
Bryant finished with 157 yards passing and 40 more rushing, and Simmons has 137 yards receiving on five catches for Plainfield, which lost its seventh straight.
HILLSBOROUGH (3-6) 0-0-15-7—22
PLAINFIELD (1-7) 18-0-0-0—18
P—Cisson 1 run (kick fails)
P—Bryant 13 run (pass fails)
P—Cisson 3 run (kick fails)
H—Kauffman 1 run (Eilbacher kick)
H—Kauffman 18 pass from Schultz (Parham pass from Schultz)
H—Suseck 17 pass from Schultz (Eilbacher kick)
Passing — H: Schultz 15-24-196-1, Fisher 7-13-61-2; P: Bryant 9-23-157-1.
Rushing — H: Kauffman 13-43, Parham 1-3, Schultz 7-2, Melillo 1-1; P: Cisson 13-77, Kennedy 9-42, Bryant 7-40.
Receiving — H: Parham 8-93, Zimmerman 7-81, Suseck 3-54, Kauffman 2-18, Williams 1-12; P: Simmons 5-137, Kennedy 1-10, Cordoba 1-7, Woodard 2-3.