Two controversy-plagued teams had something to prove Friday night.
Gulf and Ridgewood both were eager for their first victory. Ridgewood came out on top, defeating the Buccaneers 24-16 without two of its star players
The Rams and Bucs are each dealing with personnel problems. For Ridgewood, tailback Mike Galizia, who led the county in rushing last year, and quarterback Justin Pena were suspended for four games earlier this week for violating school rules.
Gulf senior wide receiver Chad Kleinatland is out for the season, the result of an arrest in May for possession a controlled substance.
Both teams started conservatively, keeping the ball on the ground for a scoreless first quarter. Things picked up with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Ridgewood's Chris Daus.
Freshman running back David Williams, replacing the suspended Galizia, ran for 136 yards with three touchdowns, including a 71-yard scoring run with 22 seconds left in the second quarter.
Down 12-3 at halftime, Gulf came back on a 6-yard run by tailback Ray Sousa, narrowing the score to 12-10.
On the next Ridgewood possession, however, Gulf's Hector Colazzo intercepted a pass from Ridgewood's Charley Minichino and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown that gave Gulf a 16-12 lead.
But the Bucs couldn't hold on, after two late touchdowns by Williams sealed the game for Ridgewood.
With nine freshmen starting for Gulf, coach Keith Newton knew things could be rough. "We're having growing pains right now," he said.
"They were bigger than we were, and we just couldn't deal with it."