By Rich Chrampanis |
EAST RUTHERFORD – The numbers usually don’t lie, but when it comes to Red Bank Catholic’s 14-10 Non-Public Group 3 state championship win over Mater Dei Prep, they are deceiving. The Seraphs outgained the Caseys 408-246, but the RBC defense proved that while yardage is important, turnover margin and the score column were the most important stats in this All-Shore showdown.
The Caseys came into the game averaging 35.8 points per game, but Mater Dei’s talented defense was able to keep RBC in check. The Caseys were able to make the most out of a couple of key plays to find the end zone twice. A John Columbia 15-yard run on a fake punt extended a second-quarter drive that was capped off by an 11-yard scoring run by quarterback Steve Lubischer.
Billy Guidetti had a 44-yard gain on a screen pass on third and 8 in the opening drive of the second quarter that set up a 3-yard TD run in the third quarter by the junior running back. Mater Dei’s lone touchdown came on a 51-yard gallop by running back Malik Ingram in the third quarter. The Seraphs got inside the 10-yard line on three occasions, but only produced three points on a Gavin Toth 27-yard field goal.
It was RBC’s ability to find a way to make plays at the most critical times that ultimately brought a state championship back to Red Bank.
“We just knew we had to be disciplined; buckle down and just play some hard-nosed defense that we’ve been playing all year,” defensive tackle Tommy Smith (10 tackles) said. “It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced. It’s surreal.
Throughout RBC’s perfect 10-0 2018 season, it was an all-hands-on-deck mentality for the Caseys defensive unit and, on the biggest stage, the list of contributors was long and noteworthy. After Steve Lubischer opened the scoring with an 11-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, Jaden Key forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff that Sean Rossback recovered.
Kevin Bauman is used to grabbing headlines as a big yardage tight end, but in the championship game, the Notre Dame commit had a sack that led to a Mater Dei stop in RBC territory and caused a second-half fumble that was recovered by Gino Tartamella. Anthony Romano had a third-quarter interception and MJ Wright halted the momentum of what many thought was an inevitable Mater Dei touchdown to take the lead when he popped the ball out of Mater Dei quarterback Rob McCoy’s hands, resulting in a Charlie Gordinier fumble recovery inside the 10-yard line.
Then there’s senior linebacker Steve Cmielewski who was all over the field with 17 tackles. With the Seraphs inside the 5-yard line in the fourth quarter and trailing 14-10, Cmielewski was able to make the tackle on McCoy at the 3-yard line to set up a dramatic fourth and goal. Once again it was Cmielewski, along with sophomore defensive tackle Jake Louro, who kept McCoy out of the end zone 2 yards shy of pay dirt.
“We were ready to do whatever it took,” Bauman said. “Offense, defense, special teams and we were there in all three phases. Whatever the game ended up being, we were ready for it.”
Meanwhile, Mater Dei Prep has served notice that it is a football power well beyond the Shore Conference. The Seraphs road win at DePaul Catholic in the semifinals caught the attention of the entire Garden State. And MDP was 2 yards away from winning it all in the title game. The Mater Dei defense was able to make huge plays that gave the team a chance to win. Ingram’s 34-carry, 250-yard performance on the ground was one of the most impressive efforts of the entire postseason and he will be back to lead the Seraphs for his senior season in 2019.
New Jersey’s high school football pundits are forced to change their mindset that it’s an automatic state championship for a North Jersey Non-Public power. The Caseys and the Seraphs have broken through and to see two teams from our backyard play a high-quality game at the home of the Jets and Giants was a great moment for Shore Conference football.
“Some people thought Shore Conference teams couldn’t play with the big boys, but we beat Pope John and Mater Dei beat DePaul,” Lubischer said. “That shows a lot for the Shore Conference and it was a hard-fought game.”
RBC head coach Frank Edgerly is no stranger to an NFL sideline, so it was fitting that the former Cleveland Browns assistant got to soak in the moment of bringing the Caseys its second state championship this decade and the third in school history during his second run leading the RBC football program.
“For me personally, it’s very satisfying, but quite frankly these kids earned and deserved what happened today,” Edgerly said. “All the credit goes to them.”
This article was first published in the Nov. 29-Dec.5, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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