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Bergen Catholic grinds out 20-19 victory over Pope John

Last week against the number one team in the state St. Peter’s Prep, Bergen Catholic (5-2) enjoyed immense success through the air and on the ground amassing nearly 300 yards rushing and 155 yards passing. On Saturday a much different story played out at Crusader Stadium against Pope John (5-2).

Limited to 165 total yards, 70 passing yards and 28 rushing yards Bergen Catholic found other ways to escape with a 20-19 win over the Lions. Junior field goal kicker Michael Kearney drilled a clutch 36-yard field goal with 5:55 remaining in the third quarter that proved to be the difference maker. Both defenses would not give an inch the rest of the way, as the game became a punt fest.

Getting the ball back with less than two minutes remaining, Pope John drove down deep into Crusaders territory but the tandem of Aeneas DiCosmo and Jevontae Jean-Baptiste combined to sack quarterback Niko Hroncich. With time winding down and no time-outs, the Lions attempted a 50-yard field goal that fell way short of the goal posts.

“Michael (Kearney) made two huge field goals and he missed two last week and to come back and nail two today was important,” said Bergen Catholic Head Coach Nunzio Campanile. “Ronnie (Vergona) did a great job punting and a couple of tough snaps and able to get them out. We did a good job in coverage and a block on extra point which put them in a little of a chase and missed an extra point that gave us the lead there.”

“Special teams the difference in the game and we had a great package on defense and Tony DeBellis had a great plan and does a great job every week and in position to be successful. We limited the big plays and their only score in the second half we gave them a short field position. All three phases have to bring it and you know the talent in coaching in this league and every week you’re going to be in a battle and understand that and prepare mentally. Our guys knew it would be a knock down and drag out game.”

Pope John’s defensive front gave senior quarterback Johnny Langan picking him off twice in the game but with three minutes to go in the first half Langan found some open holes gaining 20 yards on the ground. The Crusaders advanced the ball down to the Lions 14. However, the drive stalled out forcing a field goal attempt as Kearney nailed a 31-yarder with 40 seconds remaining.

Attempting to run out the clock, Hroncich took a knee on first down and running back Berrell Neal gained four yards on second down. Campanile kept on using his timeouts and on third down Josh McKenzie delivered a bone-crushing hiton Neal forcing a six-yard loss. Forced to punt, punter Justin Hertlein mishandled the ball. Taking over at the 10-yard line, Langan wasted no time hooking up with his favorite target for a second time, senior wide receiver Dylan Classi in the right corner of the end zone with seven seconds left on the clock.

“A really fun game to play in and enjoy these games that is tough entire time and brings out all the competitors and shows what a team is really made of and dealing with adversity and one of my favorite things about football,” said Johnny Langan. “Me and Dylan (Classi) know each other as good as anyone and our chemistry is great. I know where to put the football and he is going to catch it.”

“It’s a great win and Pope John is a great team and to come out here and get a win in my final regular season game,” said Dylan Classi. “Me and Johnny practice that play all the time and done it 100 times in practice and routine and we just executed. It’s been going on since freshman year and he works extremely hard and player he is today. We know it’s our senior year and want to capitalize on everything we do.”

Next up for Bergen Catholic is the highly anticipated return of Greg Toal to Don Bosco Prep in a nationally televised game on ESPN2 next Friday. Toal was the head coach at Don Bosco for 18 years, leading the Ironmen to 9 state sectional championships.

“I don’t care what their record, heck of a team and talented,” Campanile said. “A rivalry game and they’re going to be prepared and we’re going to be prepared and come out and be at our best and ready to go.”

“We’re going to treat it like any other game, work hard and what is going to win us the game and not focus on what everyone else is going to say and focus on what’s here and tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. and practice hard and be well-prepared,” Classi said.

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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