MetLife Stadium—-Bergen Catholic entered Saturday’s NJSIAA Rothman Orthopaedics Non-Public, Group 4 final at MetLife Stadium to close out their fairytale season with a win. All season long, the Crusaders defense has been lights with a smash-mouth running attack. BC won six straight wins in the second half of the season against teams ranked no lower than 10th in New Jersey.
Don Bosco Prep was unimpressed with the mystique of Bergen Catholic, the Ironmen took their first drive for 71 yards for a score. BC scored 28 unanswered points to beat its Bergen County arch rival 28-7 in East Rutherford.
Ryan Butler broke the 7-7 tie on a 1-yard power run with 4:27 to go in the second quarter, and he sealed the game with a 45-yard scoring run on BC sidelines with 1:08 remaining in the game.
This is the eighth BC team to finish undefeated and the second to close out the season at 12-0, joining the 1998 team.
“This just feels great. This is a lifetime goal to win a state championship and now it’s been accomplished,” said Princeton commit running back Ryan Butler, who had 124 yards on the ground and two touchdowns on 17 carries.
The Crusaders used senior speedy back Saeed St. Fluer, who amassed 120 yards on nine carries. The dynamic-duo was just too much for the Ironmen’s defense to handle.
Both of Don Bosco’s possesion in the second quarter were three-and-outs, the first of which gave the Crusaders the ball at the Ironmen 49 and set the stage for Butler’s go-ahead touchdown.
Butler ran for 11 total yards on the first two plays of the drive, and would carry five more times for 23 yards to the Ironmen one-yard line. They Crusaders pitched Butler the ball on the right for a score with 4:27 to go before the break and Giancarlo Carbonaro followed with the extra point and the 14-7 lead.
“This is crazy but this how I wanted to finished my career at Bergen. We did what we had to do every game and we did it with class. I love my Bergen family.” Bergen Catholic center Joseph Matone said.
Defensively, the Crusaders turned it up another notch during the playoffs giving up just 24 points in its three postseason wins against Donovan Catholic, St. Peter’s Prep, and Don Bosco.
“We’ve been working for a whole year now,” two-way player Dominick Brogna said. “The whole team has been grinding. We were one family, one unit.”
The Crusaders made one final attempt to get the football into the end zone, moving 47 yards to the Crusaders 22-yard line. But a final pass by Nicholas Minicucci fell incomplete to keep BC streak intact of not allowing a point in the second half of play.
“They just play with relentless effort. They care about each other a great deal. They’ve been super,” head coach Vito Campanile said of his defense, the stifling defense was led by linebackers John Fiore, Malachi Mercer, and Gerald Crum, linemen Sydir Mitchell, Christian Ross, and Dominick Brogna, and defensive backs Fabian France and DJ Samuels.
Whenever the Crusaders needed a big play, they went to their power run game behind center Joseph Matone and guard Dominick Brogna. BC doesn’t try to be cute and fancy, they come right at you, mono to mono.
“We just had to stay calm. Everything is a battle when you play us,” Jayden Bellamy said. “We already knew going into this game nothing is gonna be easy. We just had to take it on the chin and go onto the next play.”
The Crusaders didn’t want to leave the legacy of this year’s team up us sport writers and pundits. This year’s team and coaches wanted to leave all the talking on the field. Their play on the between the white lines— spoke loudly.
“We were the toughest team to ever play,” Bergen Catholic quarterback Steve Angeli said as he celebrated with his team going in the tunnel. “That’s what will come out of this. Nobody was tougher than us. We were tougher than every team we played against. We showed who we are.”
Last season, the Crusaders was the No. 1 team in the NJ.com until it was upset by Don Bosco. In a six-game shorten season due to the pandemic, Bergen Catholic never got the chance to redeem itself until today.
“I think the last four weeks have probably been as stressful as I’ve had in my coaching career,” said Bergen Catholic coach Vito Campanile, “because I think a lot how bad I wanted this for our team and our school.”