Oradell, NJ-The Green Knights, No. 1 in the NJ.com Top 20, returned the favor with a win over No. 3 Bergen Catholic in Oradell. Last year’s lost to the Crusaders was imbedded in their minds, it was a game they let slipped away.
St. Joseph went old school and played smash mouth football against the Crusaders. The Green Knights rode Junior running back Audric Estime who had 27 carries for a game high of 169 yards to propel St. Joseph to a 28-10 win over Bergen Catholic in a rematch of last year’s Non-Public Group 4 state final.
Estime, who currently has four games rushing over the 100-yard mark this season and sat out last week’s contest with Paramus Catholic due to an ankle injury, was now ready and amped to play the Crusaders.
“Everyone knows our M.O. is we’re going to run the ball. And we have to do that behind our great O-line. And anytime you can beat Bergen Catholic in any fashion, it’s beautiful.” St. Joseph head coach Auggie Hoffman said.
The Green Knights were down 10-7 at the break but came out in the second half with a fresh attitude and the offensive line imposed their will against the Crusaders.
Audric Estime went to the St. Joseph coaching staff reassuring them his ankle was 100% and to let him carry the load for the team.
The Green Knight coaching staff obliged.
St. Joes didn’t undergo any ill effects after suffering its first loss against national powerhouse St. Frances (Md.) two weeks ago and a close win over Paramus Catholic last week.
The halftime Gatorade must have been potent because the defense shut down BC’s offense in the second half. St. Joseph dominated putting up 21points and never looked back.
“St. Joseph that is still the best high school football team in New Jersey.” Hoffman quipped.
The Green Knights’ top offensive players sparked the defense. Both Luke Wypler and Geno VanDemark, who are mostly known as the tackles on the offensive line, played both ways to combat the size difference in the big boys battle.
“I just think I had what it takes to put this team on my back and finish this game. And that’s what I did. It was a great battle in the trenches, the line made me look great and the score shows we did what we had to do at the end of the game.” Estime said.
Estime sprinted for a 52-yard touchdown on a power play and bounced it on the right sideline in the first half to put the Green Knights up 7-0 midway through the first.
The Crusaders answered roaring back on a Steve Angeli move having the sophomore cap a 76-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown to running back Ryan Butler with 11:01 left before break.
Bergen Catholic, missing two key starters including CB All-American Jordan Morant and WR Pierson Tobia both done for their senior season, added a 23-yard field goal with 2:36 left in the second. The Crusaders had a 10-7 lead going into halftime, but left points on the board after a dropped touchdown pass by Gist on the previous play.
“We’ve played the field position game a lot the last few years. And no doubt it was a turning point. When you’ve got to come out of your own end zone and then are working with a short field, it’s tough on teams. Defending short fields in this league is very, very hard.” Hoffman said.
Three straight incompletions ensued and St. Joseph was set up at the Bergen Catholic 15-yard line following the quick three-and-out. A few plays later, Estime gave the Green Knights a lead it would not give up, pushing the pile from 2 yards out with 5:13 left in the third quarter.
The Green Knights went up, 21-10, on an 8-yard touchdown on its next possession from Alaimo to a wide-open Brayden Kelly dragging across the left hash marks with 54 seconds left in the third. The drive was setup by Amin Vanover catching a 22-yard pass to put the ball at the 10-yard line.
St. Joseph put the game away on a Te’Rai Powell 4-yard touchdown run with 3:32 left in the game. The drive featured a heavy dose of Audric Estime, who rushed eight times including six straight at one point before exiting to the sidelines with cramp-like symptoms for 52 yards.
“Today was a great reminder for everyone. This is a St. Joe’s win here. We ran the ball I don’t even know how many times in the second half and we have the best running backs in the state of New Jersey. That’s a fact. When you’re in a dogfight like that, you’re going to give it to your best player. Audric is clearly our best player and it’s still high school football.” Hoffman said.