HUDSON — In a matchup of previously undefeated teams, the Bandys football squad reigned supreme. The Trojans took their second lead of the night late in the first quarter and never relinquished it, winning 34-24 over South Caldwell on Friday night at Spartan Stadium.
Bandys didn’t complete a pass, but recorded over 300 rushing yards for the 17th straight game to move to 3-0 for the second consecutive year. Meanwhile, the Spartans are now 2-1 after having their first two-game winning streak since 2016 snapped.
“They’re tough-nosed,” South Caldwell coach Marc Kirkpatrick said of Bandys. “Obviously with the option offense you’ve got to be very disciplined and they run that at you, but then they do the power game as well and the toss sweep and you’ve got to be mentally in the game but physical defensively.
“Offensively, we’re just kind of struggling a little bit now as far as finding who we are,” he added. “I want to see us have a good week of practice. … We didn’t have a great week of practice this week and then we play like that, so I’ve got to do a better job of just demanding them to practice well so they’ll be better prepared for the game on Friday.”
After South Caldwell went three-and-out to open the game, the Trojans began a methodical drive that lasted over five minutes and ended when Jackson Spicer scored from 1 yard out at the 5:42 mark of the first quarter. Following Jesse Pope’s extra point, Bandys enjoyed a 7-0 lead.
After both teams threw interceptions on their next possessions — South Caldwell’s Avery Raynor was picked off by Bandys’ Parker Styborski and the Trojans’ Spicer was intercepted by the Spartans’ Aaron Kirby on the very next play — South Caldwell drove 43 yards in six plays for its first touchdown of the night. Raynor scored from 5 yards out with 1:49 remaining in the opening quarter, while CJ Crawford added the 2-point conversion run to give the Spartans’ the lead at 8-7.
The lead would be short-lived, as it took just three plays for the Trojans to answer. The big play came on a 48-yard run from Chris Culliver, while the TD came on a 12-yard scamper from Christian Sigmon with 35.2 seconds left in the first quarter. Bandys’ attempt at a 2-point conversion failed, leaving the visitors’ advantage at 13-8 after the first quarter.
Following a scoreless second quarter, Bandys took control with a pair of TD runs in the third. Malik Kennedy scored on a 13-yard TD run at the 8:17 mark, while Quenten Maddox added a 2-yard TD jaunt just over two minutes later.
Trailing 28-8, South Caldwell got a TD it desperately needed when Spencer Piercy scored from 26 yards out with 1:59 remaining in the third quarter. However, Bandys’ Josh Williams countered with a 13-yard TD run at the 8:28 mark of the final quarter to extend the Trojans’ lead back to 20 points.
A late safety and a 10-yard TD run from Piercy with under a minute to play brought the Spartans closer, but Bandys’ cushion was ultimately too large for them to overcome as the Trojans held on for a 10-point victory.
“I thought South sort of took charge in the second quarter, but the kids did a good job of coming back in the second half and playing much better,” Bandys coach Tom Eanes said of his team. “But I admire what Coach Kirkpatrick has done. He’s really done a tremendous job at South Caldwell, those kids are tough.”
Bandys finished with 60 carries for 306 yards, already putting it over the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season. Hunter Jones led the way with seven carries for 103 yards and Isaiah Gilchrist added 18 carries for 77 yards, with the Trojans also utilizing seven other ball carriers throughout the night.
“That is a nice thing to have,” said Eanes of his litany of rushing options. “… It’s good because Gil (Isaiah Gilchrist) has a little burst to him and Josh (Williams) has got that pop for us and then the A-backs are all pretty multi-dimensional.
“(Malik) Kennedy and (Quenten) Maddox are now really starting to get better because they’ve been getting in the system,” he continued. “They weren’t here last year, and (Chris) Culliver is another one. All those backs are really helping us keep guys fresh when they’re playing defense too.”
South Caldwell also found success on the ground, getting a game-high 138 yards and two TDs on 20 carries from Piercy. Raynor added 15 carries for 65 yards and a score in the Spartans’ first loss of the season.
“We’re having trouble with turnovers right now and not being able to finish off drives in the red zone,” said Kirkpatrick. “We’re turning the ball over and getting behind the sticks with too many penalties.”
Bandys hosts Bunker Hill next Friday, while South Caldwell travels to Hibriten.