Bergen Catholic caps off an undefeated season with a 28-7 win over Don Bosco Prep in the Non-Public A Final
The Bergen Catholic Crusaders(12-0) and Don Bosco Prep Ironmen(8-5) squared off in the Non-Public A Final at Met Life Stadium. Despite chilly temperatures and, at times, gusty winds, the sun shined brightly throughout the stadium.
On opposite sides of the field, passionate fans from both schools packed the stands. The student sections voiced their passion and at each other as well. Bergen Catholic was coming out to In the Air Tonight by Phil Collins.
The Crusaders received the opening kickoff after Don Bosco Prep deferred in the coin toss. After a personal foul signaled against the Ironmen defense extended the drive, Bergen Catholic eventually had to punt the ball away.
The Don Bosco Prep offense went to work at their 26-yard line. Don Bosco Prep converted a key third down on a pass play from junior quarterback Nicholas Minicucci to senior wide receiver Peter Popowich. On the next play, Minicucci tossed a pass to junior wide receiver Ethan Acevedo that turned into a significant 49-yard gain down to the Bergen Catholic 19-yard line.
Wasting no time at all cashing in on the short field, Minicucci took the snap and plowed straight ahead towards the goal line, stretching out the ball across the plain for the 19-yard score with 7:35 left in the first quarter. Freshman kicker Jack Donnelly drilled home the extra point to make it 7-0 Ironmen.
The Crusaders' offense sputtered due to a rash of penalties on their ensuing offensive possession. The Don Bosco Prep defensive front applied tremendous pressure on Bergen Catholic senior quarterback Steve Angeli. Sophomore Vincent Bertone and junior defensive lineman Jovan George were both registering sacks that forced another Crusaders punt.
When it seemed the Bergen Catholic punter would get the punt off, the Ironmen special teams unit blasted through the middle of the line to block the punt. That set up a great field position for the Don Bosco Prep offense at the Crusaders 15-yard line with less than four minutes remaining.
However, the Bergen Catholic defense formed a blockade for the Ironmen offense running the ball. Junior running back Ronnie Heath was only able to gain five yards on three consecutive runs. Having to settle for the field goal attempt, Jack Donnelly ended up shanking the kick as the ball landed well to the right of the goal post.
The Crusader's offense utilized the pound and ground game after starting at the 20-yard line. Both senior running back Ryan Butler and junior running back Saeed St. Fleur share the carries. With the most extensive run on the drive gaining 44 yards, that advanced the ball to the Don Bosco Prep 27-yard line.
With time winding down in the first quarter, the Bergen Catholic offense faced a second down and 13 at the Ironmen 14-yard line. Quarterback Steve Angeli took the snap and fired a pass to Jayden Bellamy, who snuck in between two defenders and leaned across the goal line for the score, which officials confirmed after video replay. Senior kicker Giancarlo Carbonaro knocked home the extra point kick to tie the game up at 7-7.
Once the second quarter got underway, the Bergen Catholic defense forced a quick three and out. A 32-yard punt resulted in the Crusader's offense taking over at the Don Bosco Prep 49-yard line with ten minutes to go. Bergen Catholic went back to their bread and butter that was the running game. The Crusaders churned out yards on ten running plays except for a short pass from quarterback Steve Angeli to senior wide receiver Santino Correa.
The result was running back Ryan Butler, taking a handoff from Steve Angeli, and gaining the edge off the right side of the line striding into the end zone for the score with 4:27 left. Kicker Giancarlo Carbonaro split the uprights on the extra point kick to make it 14-7 Bergen Catholic.
An illegal block assessed the Ironmen special team's unit on the ensuing kickoff pushed the Don Bosco Prep offense back to their ten-yard line. The Crusader's defense yielded minimal yardage that ended in another punt.
With the ball at the Ironmen 48-yard line and 3:17 remaining, the Bergen Catholic offense swiftly moved deep down the field. Steve Angeli completed a 15-yard pass to Ryan Butler that advanced the ball to the 22-yard line.
That would be the farthest the Crusader's offense would get a delay of the game combined by negative yardage of play forced fourth down. Steve Angeli's pass ended up incomplete as the Ironmen took possession of the ball on downs. Don Bosco Prep is taking a knee on the first snap, signaling halftime.
With Don Bosco Prep receiving the second-half kickoff ended up not mattering at all as the Bergen Catholic defense continued to shut down the running back and forced a third consecutive punt.
The Crusader's offense ran the ball the first two times after starting at the 46-yard line. Faced with a third down and six at the Ironmen 42-yard line, Steve Angeli completed a pass to Saeed St. Fleur, who did the rest rumbling down the left side of the field to the Bergen Catholic six-yard line.
On first and goal, junior defensive lineman DJ Samuels entered the game and into the backfield. Steve Angeli took the snap and handed the ball off to Samuels, who barreled into the endzone with a couple of Don Bosco Prep defensive players draped all over him. Giancarlo Carbonaro booted home the extra point kick to make it 28-7 Crusaders with 8:06 left in the third quarter.
Both teams traded punts to end the third quarter. That trend continued into the fourth quarter. The last opportunity for the Ironmen to cut into the Bergen Catholic came with six minutes remaining.
After the Don Bosco Prep special team's unit partially blocked a punt that set the Ironmen offense up at the 36-yard line. Quarterback Nicholas Minicucci with ample time in the pocket, completed back-to-back passes of 15 and 30 yards.
A holding penalty pushed the Ironmen offense back further on the verge of advancing deeper into Crusader's territory. Facing second and a mile, the Don Bosco Prep offense stalled out with a slim running play followed by an incomplete pass, and Minicucci completed a nine-yard pass that was well short of the first down marker on fourth and 25 at the 35-yard line.
The Bergen Catholic offense went back to a familiar blueprint after taking possession of the ball at the 29-yard line. in the running game. Saeed St. Fleur broke loose for a 27-yard gain.
Capping off a stellar career in a Crusaders uniform, running back Ryan Butler took the handoff from Steve Angeli and broke into the clear sprinting 45-yards to the house for the score with 1:08 to go. Kicker Giancarlo Carbonaro cranked home his final extra-point kick in a Bergen Catholic that made it 28-7.
Nicholas Minicucci heaved a pass to the end zone with the clocking ticking down and the Ironmen offense in Bergen Catholic territory. Still, Crusaders senior linebacker John Fiore cemented the 28-7 Non-Public A win and 12-0 undefeated season, swooping in for a spectacular one-handed interception as the game ended.
That set off a jubilant celebration not only with the Bergen Catholic players and coaches streaming onto the field but in the stands with the Crusaders fans.