DePaul Holds On In Non-Public B Championship For Revenge Win Against Red Bank Catholic
Photo by: Anthony Ferrara (@af.visualsss)
It took the DePaul Catholic Spartans some time to get into their groove, but they turned on the jets when it mattered most. The Spartans fell behind the Red Bank Catholic Caseys 10-0 early in the second quarter, but rallied back to tie the game going into halftime. The second half was dominated by DePaul, with clutch plays giving them a lead they would not surrender. After falling in last year’s championship game to the Caseys, DePaul would finally take their place atop the Non-Public B mountain. Many say revenge is an act of passion, and it was apparent all night that the DePaul Spartans were playing for keeps
The game started with both offenses feeling out their opponent. While both teams met last season in this very game, they turned over their rosters and had fresh faces throughout the lineup. DePaul punted first, giving Red Bank Catholic the ball for their first possession. The Caseys started feeding star running back Sabino Portella, but did not make much progress in the field position department. RBC was forced to punt, yet got the ball right back as DePaul muffed the return attempt.
Portella was put back to work, but the drive did not look promising. That was until Caseys’ wide receiver Najih Rahman drew a facemask from Spartans’ cornerback Nyair Domnie on a block that put the ball on the nine yard line and gave RBC a chance at the end zone with first-and-goal. Rahman and Domnie continued to battle throughout the night, with many physical matchups between the two. The Caseys’ did not find the endzone and kicker Justin LaMorte split the uprights from 21 yards out to start the second quarter and get on the board.
Up 3-0, Red Bank Catholic went right back to work and forced a three-and-out on defense. Portella then found his mojo on the ensuing drive, pushing piles of Spartan defenders forward and adjusting off the line to move down the field. He finished it off himself, spinning past two DePaul lineman and into the endzone for the four-yard touchdown run.
Jadin Johnson knew the Spartans had to get something going, and did his part by returning the kickoff to his 40 yard line. Freshman quarterback Derek Zammit decided he would do the same, delivering a strike over the top to wide receiver De’Zie Jones for a 60-yard score. DePaul continued the cycle by forcing a three-and-out, then running the two-minute drill to perfection down the field. Unable to find the endzone, the Spartans turned to kicker Luke Monteyne. The PCTI transfer delivered a 22-yarder to tie the game at 10, with the score holding true into halftime.
The defensive battle once again took hold at the start of the second half. Both squads made some forward progress, but neither could finish the job on the first three drives of the third quarter. DePaul’s entire defensive line stood tall and Portella continued his two-way dominance for RBC with a few big tackles for loss.
Offensive fortunes changed on the next drive, perhaps the most interesting of the game. The Caseys’ were attempting the third straight punt of the half, but the snap was high and the ball was barely in the air at the one yard line when it was tipped. Spinning over the still-engaged linemen, the ball took a miraculous RBC bounce all the way back to the DePaul 41. Not out of the woods yet, the Caseys got called for holding but Spartans’ head coach Nick Campanile declined it and set up shop approaching midfield. Jadin Johnson would again contribute, taking a shallow pass for a huge gain into RBC territory. On a wild play, DePaul’s Zammit threw a pass off the helmet of his own offensive lineman, then caught it himself behind the line of scrimmage and took it for a 10 yard gain on third down to move the chains. Running back Anthony Almeida finished the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run, giving DePaul its first lead of the game at 17-10 with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Red Bank Catholic got the ball back, but had their drive ruined by Spartans defensive end Lucas Young. Young erupted off the line and swallowed up RBC quarterback Frankie Williams, forcing a third-and-seventeen. They punted away and gave Caseys’ Aiden Donahue his own chance at a momentum-shifting sack. Donahue took off on a heater and pancaked Zammit deep in the backfield.
The Spartans would get the last laugh, downing their punt on RBC’s five yard line. After forcing play backwards and getting another three-and-out, DePaul’s Steven Fiorendino would get his hands on the punt attempt and send it out of the back of the endzone for the safety. DePaul did not take advantage of their next possession, punting it away.
There was no quit in Red Bank Catholic, driving down the field in just over two minutes to cut the lead to 19-17. Robert Stolfa lept for the pylon and knocked it down to get the touchdown. The defense then got the necessary stop, pitting the Caseys’ offense and Spartan defense against each other to decide the game. Frankie Williams could not connect on the first two plays, then Portella was knocked down behind the line. On fourth-and-twelve, Williams looked deep again but it was broken up on a great play by the Spartans defense. Zammit and company got the ball back, and ran the clock out on the game and Red Bank Catholic’s season.