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Don Bosco Hangs on to defeat Bergen Catholic 27-21

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Earlier in the regular season, the Don Bosco Prep Ironmen spoiled Bergen Catholic’s opportunity at winning the Big North United division title and last Saturday the Ironmen denied the Crusaders a trip to Met Life Stadium winning a thriller 27-21 at Granatell Stadium in Ramsey. Don Bosco (8-3) advanced to their first Non-Public, Group 4 title since 2011 and will take on the St. Joseph (Montvale) Green Knights (8-3).

With the Ironmen clinging to a 27-21 lead late in the 4th quarter, Bergen Catholic junior linebacker Connor Hebbeler blocked a punt giving the Crusaders outstanding field position at the Don Bosco 35-yard line. However, on 3rd and 10 Senior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano’s pass was picked by Haraan Ranson sealing the win for the Ironmen.

“Haraan coming up with the big interception which was a thing of beauty,” said Don Bosco Prep Head Coach Greg Toal. “The defense played its tails off and so hard which was the difference in our team all year and kept us in a lot of games. A great feeling being back in the sectional game and just missed it the last two years.”

Bergen Catholic staked out to a 12-0 lead in the 1st quarter. With just under five minutes left, Guarantano completed a pass to senior wide receiver Gene Coleman(9 catches, 123 yards) in the flat and Coleman did the rest sprinting into the end zone. The extra point was no goo leaving the score at 6-0. The Crusaders took over the ball at their own 27 with 3:33 left in the quarter and Guarantano completed a 31-yard pass to senior tight end Korab Idrizi moving the ball to the Don Bosco 35. On 1st down, Guarantano(18-30,216 yards, 2 TD’s, 1 Int) launched an aerial strike to Coleman in the far left corner of the end zone. Going for the 2-point conversion, junior wide receiver Andrew Vito dropped a pass in the end zone with the score standing 12-0.

“Gene had one of his best games of the year in the biggest spot there,” said Bergen Catholic Head Coach Nunzio Campanile. “A great competitor and supper talented who has played in a lot of big games. Jarrett did a great job and came out really fast. When you miss five games it’s not that easy to go back and play against that caliber of a team. He made plays throughout the game and more than anything he proved how important this team is to him and what type of leader he is.”

On the ensuing kickoff, the Crusaders attempted a squib kick that Don Bosco recovered at their own 39. On a 2nd and 10 at the 47, junior Wankeith Aiken gained 15 yards on the ground. Aiken made his presence known again a few plays later catching a pass along the right sideline from junior quarterback Thomas DeVito and breaking tackles before racing into the end zone for the touchdown cutting the Bergen Catholic lead down to 12-7 21 seconds into the 2nd quarter.

The miscues continued for the Crusaders as sophomore quarterback Johnny Langan turned the ball over on 1st and 10 at the 32 with Ironmen senior safety Tyron Hill recovering the ball. However, Bergen Catholic’s defense stood tall denying senior running back Malik Bakker of a 1st down on 4th and 1 at the 6. After a Crusaders three-and-out, Don Bosco started out with outstanding field position at the Bergen Catholic 40. On 3rd and 12 at the 17, junior linebacker David Luglio picked off Devito.

Backed up deep in their own territory, Guarantano ended up getting sacked by senior defensive end Will Mack forcing a punt. On 3rd and 8 at the Bergen Catholic 49, Devito(14-27, 166, 3 TD’s, 1 Int) tossed a screen pass to Bakker who took it from there scrambling down the left sideline for the score giving Don Bosco its first lead of the game at 14-12 with 1:10 left in the 1st half.

“We’re not doing 12-0 and not doing too much but all of a sudden we caught fire,” said Greg Toal. “We knew going tin we had to win with defense and got some great guys upfront in Simon and Mack. We didn’t panic, under control and just a matter of time before we got it going.”

In the 3rd quarter, the Ironmen stretched out the lead to 20-12 on an 8-yard TD pass from Devito to junior wide receiver Elijah Singh but the extra point was no good. The Crusaders answered right back on their ensuing possession with Langan barreling into the end zone on 2nd and goal at the 4 making it 20-18 early in the 4th quarter. Bergen Catholic went for the two-point conversion attempting to tie up the game up the Ironmen defense came up with the stop.

“I thought we played really hard but don’t know if we played really well,” said Nunzio Campanile. “We left a lot of opportunities out there and could have execute a little bit better in some critical spots. We’re not in this game if it were not for the play of Johnny Langan in the month leading up to this game. He demonstrated physical and mental toughness that is rare.”

The see-saw affair continued as Don Bosco took possession at their own 36 and quickly drove the length of the field with Devito completed two passes to senior wide receiver Hunter Reynolds. On 1st and 10 at the Bergen Catholic 14, Devito handed off the ball to sophomore Kevin Brennan who decided to throw a nifty halfback option pass to a wide open John Bowen pushing the Ironmen lead back up to 27-18 with 7:21 left in the 4th quarter.

“We had to get a stop and allowed them to covert a couple of 3rd downs,” said Nunzio Campanile. “We fell for the halfback option pass and you could have seen the play coming from the last row of the bleachers.”

Bergen Catholic refused to go away quietly as Campanile made a gutsy decision to go for it on 4th and 1 at the 35. The Crusaders caught a break on the play as the Ironmen were flagged for a facemask penalty. With 1st and goal at the Don Bosco five-yard line, Guarantano was sacked for a 10-yard loss by junior defensive tackle Eric Chakonis. Two straight incomplete passes resulted in a 32-yard field goal by freshman kicker Michael Kearney with 3:21 remaining in the 4th.

“Michael did a great job nailing that kick and keeping us in the game,” said Nunzio Campanile. “If we don’t make that field goal we don’t have a chance. It showed a lot about his character and competitor he is.”

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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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