James Fara runs for a seven-yard TD late in the fourth to keep Point Boro alive in the Central Group II final
PISCATAWAY – It was clearly the best Point Pleasant Boro High School football team in over a decade. That goes without saying. Despite the disappointing way the season ended, the Panthers didn’t need to bring home a trophy on Saturday to validate their historic run.
Sitting at a perfect 11-0 entering the game, the top-seeded Panthers ran into a fast and electrifying Hillside team. The Panthers answered an early deficit with an inspired fourth quarter comeback, but it wasn’t enough as Point Boro fell to the Comets 20-13 in the Central Group II final at HighPoint Solutions Stadium at Rutgers University.
For seniors like star quarterback James Fara, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but the run the Panthers made, reaching their first state title game since 2005, was something to look back upon fondly.
“It’s been a great ride, it’s crazy that I played my last game,” Fara said. “Obviously it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, but I still love these guys. Hopefully the juniors that played with us and the rest of the squad can come back next year and take it from here.”
The Panthers (11-1) entered the fourth quarter trailing 20-0 after being blanked through the first three quarters, struggling to find any offensive consistency against a quick and menacing Hillside defense. However, the Panthers flipped the script in the fourth quarter.
Point Boro mounted a comeback halfway through the final quarter, starting with a 26-yard touchdown reception by junior wide receiver Kyle Komanitsky after Fara evaded a couple would-be tacklers and tossed the ball to his wide open teammate. After a successful Panther onside kick, Fara followed with a seven-yard touchdown scramble to cut the Point Boro deficit to 20-13 with 42 seconds to play.
The Panthers were unable to recover the ensuing onside kick, however, and the Comets successfully ran out the clock. Still, the Panthers proved to be a tough and dangerous team after all.
“We were way better than what we showed out there,” Fara said. “We definitely could have finished. You saw in that last quarter we put up 13 points. If we had a little more time, but the ‘what if’s,’ that’s what got us.”
For seniors like Fara, who finished with 87 rushing yards, one rushing score and one touchdown pass, the 2017 season was a great way to cap off a stellar scholastic career despite the eventual disappointing ending.
“We have a great group of kids, and our senior leadership has been tremendous all year long,” Point Boro coach Matt Cilento said. “It’s not the outcome we wanted, but there’s going to be a lot of memories with this group. They put this program where it’s at now.”
Fara, senior running backs Brandon Cipriano and Tanner Gordon, alongside senior defensive aces like Trevor McNamara and Ronnie Leyda created a foundation in Point Pleasant that could prime the Panthers for more postseason runs like this one in the years to come.
“Their leadership and the younger kicks looking up to them, I think they see how it has to be done in order to be consistent week in and week out,” Cilento said. “That’s what those kids did for us.”
Hillside 20, Point Boro 13
H: Biggins 2 run (kick failed).
H: Biggins 36 run (Louis run).
H: Willis 4 run (kick failed).
PB: Komanitsky 26 pass from Fara (kick failed).
PB: Fara 7 run (Chiarello kick).
RUSHING— H: Louis 9-28, Ugwu 6-8, Biggins 2-7, Willis 2-3, Team 1(-1), Irby 2-(-1). PBo: Cipriano 11-102, Fara 26-87, Gordon 9-35, Team 1-0.
PASSING— H: Irby 9-15-0-166. PBo: Fara 6-10-2-65, Team 0-2-0-0.
RECEIVING— H: Biggins 3-45, Willis 2-43, Paul 2-7, Amissah 1-71, Louis 1-0. PBo: Cipriano 2-19, Chiarello 2-4, Komanitsky 1-26, McNamara 1-16.
INTERCEPTIONS— H: Biggins, Paul.
Daniel LoGiudice: @danny_logiudice; firstname.lastname@example.org.