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Pioneers Fire Off 21 Unanswered in Comeback to Advance to Title Game

Pioneers Fire Off 21 Unanswered in Comeback to Advance to Title Game

By: Alex Melillo

SOMERVILLE, NJ – Somerville Pioneers comeback and defeat the Monmouth Falcons, 33-24. Pioneers rattled off 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and advance to their first sectional finals appearance since 2000.

Pioneers got off to a bad start Friday night. Bobby Wortman's opening kickoff was returned straight up the gut and all the way down to the Pioneer 4-yard line. The Falcons were stymied twice but finally breached the Somerville defense and took an early 7-0 lead.

Pioneers threatened their first drive but could not make anything happen, stalling out at midfield, but with 4:12 left in the first quarter, the Pioneers got on the board. Dabney on a fourth and goal from the Falcons' 4-yard line, took the snap right and powered into the end zone. A failed two-point conversation meant Monmouth lead 7-6 late in the first.

Falcons answered right away on their next drive. Another long return on the kickoff followed by a score on a 47-yard run saw the Falcons lead 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.

Pioneers struck early in the second quarter to cut into the Falcons' lead. With 11:18 remaining in the half, Kovacs found McDuffie over the middle for a highlight reel, one-handed catch from the junior, Pioneers trailed 14-12.

A couple of key stands by the defense, one on a big fourth down sack by Noah Irwin and another fourth down interception by Hamza Akel, helped the Pioneers remain within striking distance at halftime.

First five minutes of the three quarter was back and forth action, neither side able to create much on the offensive side of the ball. The first breakthrough of the second half came from the Falcons on a 27-yard field goal, extending their lead to 17-12. 

With all the momentum on their side, Monmouth punched in a late third-quarter touchdown. With seemingly a firm grip on the game, the visiting Monmouth Falcons took a 24-12 lead into the final quarter and were 12 minutes away from a sectional final.

Things took a turn in the fourth quarter with the Pioneers seemingly coming alive late. Somerville has a taste for the fourth quarter comeback this season, having accomplished it just two games earlier against Summit in the regular season finale.

Somerville got the comeback rolling early in the final quarter, with 11:28 on the clock, Robert Fiorentino punches in a 24-yard run, Pioneers trail 24-18.

Two minutes later, with the crowd roaring, Marcus Burnside danced his way into the end zone making the score 25-24 and giving the Pioneers the lead for the first time in the evening.

Somerville added another to seal the deal when Jalahn Dabney scored with 2:59 left in the game.

Final Score: Somerville- 33, Monmouth- 24.

Jahaln Dabney and Robbie Fiorentino lead the way for the Pioneer offense, with the junior duo combining for 229 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Dabney also added a touchdown pass to McDuffie in the second quarter. 

Defensively, several Pioneers had impact games. Ryan Hrabinski finished the game with 11 tackles and two sacks, both team highs. Marcus Burnside, Joseph Ciempola and Hamza Akel all added interceptions.

The Central Jersey Group 3 Finals is a rematch of last year's semi-final matchup. The Somerville Pioneers will face off against the one seeded Rumson-fair Haven Bulldogs. Last season, the Bulldogs ended the Pioneers perfect season, bouncing them from the playoffs in the semi-finals. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Dec. 2 from Rutgers University's High Point Solutions Stadium. For more information and up-to-date stats, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@VilleFootball) and visit us at