Jersey Showdown: Don Bosco vs. St. Joseph
The last time the Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) football team lost a game Nickelback's "How You Remind Me" was climbing the Billboard charts, Shrek ruled the box office and reality TV was the new craze.
Okay, so it's been less than three years since the Ironmen last dropped a game, but two-plus seasons of perfection is on the line tonight when Don Bosco, ranked No. 9 in the SchoolSports.com National Top 25 and No. 3 in the East region, hosts undefeated St. Joseph Regional (Montvale, N.J.) at 7 p.m.
Don Bosco head coach Greg Toal insists his team pays no attention to the 27-game winning streak they have built, dubbing it a byproduct of the two consecutive Parochial Group 4 state titles the Ironmen have claimed the past two seasons.
"We can't worry about a streak," said Toal, who has compiled a 181-32-2 record in 20 years. "We need to focus on every opponent, especially a team like St. Joseph. If we don't play well, we're going to have our butts handed to us like anyone else."
Don Bosco (3-0) has looked sharp so far this season. The Ironmen are coming off a 56-6 thumping of Barringer (Newark, N.J.) last week. Their main weapon on both sides of the ball is Michael Ray Garvin, a 5-foot-8, 178-pound running back/defensive back who is ranked No. 36 on the SchoolSports.com Preseason Top 100. Garvin boasts blistering speed (the senior was clocked at 4.28 in the 40-yard dash) and piled up 590 yards and 10 touchdowns on 56 carries last season.
"We've been utilizing a lot of different ways to get the ball in Michael's hands because of his natural talents," said Toal. "Once he gets loose, there are not a lot of people who are going to catch him."
The Ironmen also possess a quarterback with a familiar surname in sophomore Matt Simms. The son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms and the brother of Tampa Bay Buccaneers signal caller Chris Simms (who gets his first NFL start this weekend), Matt Simms completed 7-of-14 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns while leading Don Bosco past St. Anthony's (South Huntington, N.Y.), 20-3, in his varsity debut on Sept. 10.
It helps that Simms has a mammoth offensive line that features senior tackles Brian Roche (6-6, 282) and Nate Nurse (6-5, 275) and senior guards Eric Levy (6-1, 280) and Corey Wooten (6-7, 240) in front of him. That same group leads a ferocious defensive line that Toal believes may dictate the outcome of tonight's tilt.
"I think this week's game will be won up front," said Toal. "They are very good at running the ball with their wing-T offense and we need to stop them up front. Offensive, we have to handle them on the line if we want to move the ball effectively."
Senior linebacker Brad Atkinson, a three-year starter who registered 54 solo tackles, 29 assists and two forced fumbles last year, leads the linebacking crew, while few passes will head Garvin's way in the secondary.
St. Joseph Regional (4-0) has outscored opponents 154-17 through four games. Offensively, the Green Knights are led by their senior backfield tandem of fullback Andrew Romans and tailback Jason McCourty. The duo has combined to rush for 548 yards on 65 carries and score 10 touchdowns. The offensive line boasts some big frames at the tackles in senior Alex Cocuzza (6-4, 250) and junior Douglas Klopacz (6-3, 255).
Senior quarterback Brent Weiss has completed 32-of-60 attempts for 548 yards and four touchdowns with senior wide out Devin Wooten reeling in 18 receptions for 105 yards and a pair of scores.
Romans also shines on defense, where he has registered 33 tackles from his linebacker position. The Green Knights boast size up front in seniors John Cervini, Taylor Ciali and Brandon Haywood, who helped St. Joseph register eight sacks last weekend while shutting out Paramus Catholic (Paramus, N.J.), 38-0, on Oct. 2. In the secondary, McCourty and his twin brother, Devin, headline a speedy group with big play ability. Both McCourty brothers have returned interceptions for touchdowns this season.
"Every year we have two big challenges on our regular season schedule and St. Joseph is one of them," said Toal. "We've had some real tough games against them the past couple seasons and have been fortunate to get the better of them recently. I know they've only gotten better and (tonight) will be a real challenge for our squad."