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St. Joseph Regional (Montvale, New Jersey) Falls to St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Maryland) 28-0

St. Joseph (Montvale) head coach Augie Hoffmann said in the offseason he wanted his Green Knights team to take a shot against the best teams’ in the nation because it would be a good barometer of where the team stands in the season. That started with a first game of the season on the road at JSerra Catholic. On Saturday afternoon at Robert J. Dinallo Stadium, they faced a stiff test against St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, MD) whom ranked ninth nationally in the USA TODAY High School Sports poll. Meanwhile, St. Joseph came in at 18th.

The tale of the tape was an impressive one, with the Panthers offense averaging 47 points per game, while allowing just 31 points in five games played. On the other hand, St. Joseph squad tallied 102 points in three games, while yielding 34 points defensively. The running game is the greatest strength for the Green Knights amassing 788 yards, led by junior Audric Estime registering 315 yards.

A warm but blustery day wreaked havoc early on, as both teams’ came out ragged on the offensive side of the ball with numerous false start penalties. The wind knocked down punts allowing for good starting field position. With less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter, St. Frances Academy broke through first, as quarterback John Griffith lofted a 20-yard touchdown pass to Denyton Morrissette.

In the second quarter, the Green Knights were helped out by a holding call against the Panthers that allowed the drive continue. With Estime gaining 18 yards that pushed the ball to inside the ten yards, the St. Frances Academy defense buckled down, forcing a 27-yard field goal attempt that went array as the ball was muffed on the hold.

The St. Joseph defense kept the game close due to a couple of stellar plays. Those being senior defensive end Jerry Waters sacking Griffith, causing him to fumble the ball, and Nuri Robinson recovering the ball just inside Green Knights territory. With three minutes left, senior defensive back Terrence Spence picked off a Griffith pass.

With three minutes to go in the first half, St. Joseph senior quarterback Michael Alaimo found success by completing back-to-back passes to wide receivers Michael Rambala and Albert Serrano. Positioned inside the red zone, the drive fell apart due to a false start penalty and Alaimo getting sacked. On for a 48-yard field goal, Sebastian Tasko’s kick sailed wide left of the goal post.

“The margin of error against this team is small and an understatement,” said Hoffmann. “You got to convert and get field goals. We could not have started out any worse.”

Receiving the second half kickoff, the Panthers did not waste any time extending their advantage. Griffith connected on a 41-yard pass wide receiver Lamar Patterson, moving the ball to the Green Knights 30-yard line. From that point on, it was all running plays, capped off by running back Blake Corum barreling into the end zone for a four-yard score.

Once again the gusty winds played a major factor as the St. Joseph offense went on a three and out while a short punt gave the St. Frances Academy offense the ball at the 30-yard line. Needing just five plays that were all on the ground, Griffith found the end zone on a four-yard QB keeper with less than six minutes remaining. 

On the ensuing St. Joseph offensive possession, Hoffmann made the bold decision to go for it on fourth and one at the 29-yard line, but the Panthers defense swarmed to ball on a running play from Andre Epps stopping him short of the first down marker. Behind a stout offensive line, the pound and ground game worked to perfection as running back rumbled Nyjil Carr finished off the scoring rumbling into the end zone from 13 yards out with a minute and half left.

Alaimo was 10-of-14 for 76 yards and 29 yards rushing, while Estime had 18 yards and Green Knights running game limited to 94 yards.

“This is the best defense I have seen in my 11 years of coaching high school football, hands down,” said Hoffmann. “Speed wise, physicality and coaching wise. A physical group that you could tell they love football and well coached. The Don Bosco of 2009 and 2011 were dominant teams’ and this is another one.

“I don’t think we’re going to see another team like that the rest of the year and no knock on New Jersey. In the loss today, we got better and way I look at it today, they buckled it up and ran it down our throat. When you take away what we do really well and that is run the football. Michael [Alaimo] threw the ball really well today, we dropped a couple today, made the throws but got to catch them.

“At the end of the day, we have to run the football and confident going forward. I would have liked to have us play a cleaner game and put points up on the board. With that being said, we had out shots and didn’t do that and that’s on us. We thought we had some stuff that was going to work but they are much faster on the field that is on tape and is rare.”

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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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