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NJ.com write up:


No. 1 Bergen Catholic football vs. No. 5 Don Bosco: Keys to watch as rivals clash

  • Updated: Sep. 20, 2023, 9:04 p.m.|
  • Published: Sep. 20, 2023, 8:30 p.m.
Football: St. Joseph (Mont) vs Don Bosco Prep

Deven Sisler (7) of Don Bosco Prep sends the ball deep against St. Joseph (Mont) during the football game at St. Joseph’s Regional High School in Montvale, NJ on Saturday September 9, 2023Tom Horak | For NJ Advance Media


The latest edition of the storied rivalry between Bergen Catholic and Don Bosco Prep will have another chapter written on Friday when the No. 5 Ironmen host the top-ranked Crusaders.


It’s the first time the two teams will play each other since last November’s Non-Public A final where Bergen Catholic dominated and stunned Don Bosco on the way to a 45-0 win. The Crusaders’ performance that night at MetLife Stadium sent shockwaves through the New Jersey landscape, especially after the Ironmen dominated the regular season meeting between the two in September.


The two teams are slightly different personnel wise since the last game.


Bergen Catholic is looking to improve to 4-1 as the Crusaders continue their path to winning a third-straight Non-Public A championship. Don Bosco is looking to win its second game of the season and is looking for some revenge following the blowout loss at MetLife.


“They play really hard,” Sabella said of Bergen Catholic. “They are sound in what they do. I thought last week (against Seton Hall Prep), they did a great job of forcing some turnovers and creating opportunities for themselves. Offensively, they have the ability to score and to score fast.”


“You have to focus on the next one,” Bergen Catholic coach Vito Campanile said following his team’s win over Seton Hall Prep last week. “They’re a really good defensive front and they’re going to play as hard as they’ve ever played against Bergen Catholic. The Bosco weeks are just different. It’s a rivalry that takes on a life of its own.”

Football: Seton Hall Prep vs. Bergen Catholic, September 16, 2023

Bergen Catholic head coach Vito Campanile talks to his team after winning the football game between No. 18 Seton Hall Prep and No. 1 Bergen Catholic at Brendan P. Tevlin Field at Kelly Athletic Complex in West Orange, NJ on Saturday, September 16, 2023.Scott Faytok | NJ Advance Media


No. 1 Bergen Catholic (3-1) at No. 5 Don Bosco Prep (1-3)


Kickoff: Friday, 7 p.m. at Granatell Stadium in Ramsey


Coaches: Vito Campanile (46-9, sixth year at Bergen Catholic); Dan Sabella (33-24, sixth year at Don Bosco Prep)


Last five games

  • Nov. 25, 2022: Bergen Catholic 45, Don Bosco Prep 0 (Non-Public A final)
  • Sept. 24, 2022: Don Bosco Prep 31, Bergen Catholic 7
  • Nov. 27, 2021: Bergen Catholic 28, Don Bosco Prep 7 (Non-Public A final)
  • Sept. 24, 2021: Bergen Catholic 17, Don Bosco Prep 0
  • Nov. 14, 2020: Don Bosco Prep 21, Bergen Catholic 20
Football: Seton Hall Prep vs. Bergen Catholic, September 16, 2023

Dominic Campanile (17) of Bergen Catholic throws a pass during the football game between No. 18 Seton Hall Prep and No. 1 Bergen Catholic at Brendan P. Tevlin Field at Kelly Athletic Complex in West Orange, NJ on Saturday, September 16, 2023.Scott Faytok | NJ Advance Media


Players to watch


Bergen Catholic


Dominic Campanile, Jr., QB | Player profile


The southpaw gunslinger has 769 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions on 53-of-83 passing. His rushing stats won’t show it (9-20-1), but Campanile can also use his legs to dice up the defense.


Christian Gonzalez, Sr., LB | Player profile


Gonzalez has 25 tackles (eight solo) and an interception through the first four games. His interception was one of seven takeaways for the Crusaders in last week’s 38-0 win over Seton Hall Prep.


Kaden Irby-Mason, Jr., LB | Player profile


A menace in the middle of the defense, Irby-Mason is part of a tremendous junior class for Bergen Catholic. He has 22 tackles (seven solo), 1.5 tackles for loss and one sack on the season.


Elijah Kinsler, Sr., DL | Player profile


The West Virginia commit has filled enormous shoes along the defensive line and can beat opponents with power or finesse. Kinsler has accumulated 19 tackles (nine solo), two tackles for loss and two sacks.


Anthony Morales, Sr., DL | Player profile


This edge rusher invades backfields with his speed and has proven he can take the ball away. Morales has racked up nine tackles (eight solo), six tackles for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and an interception.


Naiim Parrish, Jr., WR/DB | Player profile


Parrish enjoyed a breakout sophomore season and is continuing to thrive as one of the state’s most impactful defenders. He has 14 tackles (12 solo), one tackle for loss, one interception and a forced fumble.


Anthony Perrotti, Jr., WR/DB | Player profile


An electric kick returner and receiver, Perrotti is a home run hitter for Bergen Catholic no matter where it is on the field. He has 14 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown on the season.


Quincy Porter, Jr., WR | Player profile


His size and tape do the talking. Porter has been dynamic through the first four games with 21 catches, 422 yards and nine touchdowns. The blue chip recruit had an absurd 183 yards and four scores on six receptions in the team’s Week 1 win over Iona Prep (NY).


Kaj Sanders, Sr., RB/DB | Player profile


Sanders is a gadget player for the Crusaders on offense and he can do it all in the secondary. The Rutgers pledge has 183 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries to go with 18 tackles (eight solo) and 0.5 tackles for loss.


Jordan Thomas, So., WR/DB | Player profile


Thomas had the best game of his young career in his hometown of West Orange on Saturday with two interceptions and a 65-yard catch. The four-star prospect also has 18 tackles (13 solo) and 2.5 tackles for loss on the year.


Don Bosco Prep


Mikai Allen, Fr., DB | Player profile


Just a freshman, Allen has been plugged in as a starter since he stepped foot on campus. Allen is a talented safety, who will be involved plenty against Bergen Catholic. Allen is also a kick returner for the Ironmen as the coaching staff has tried to get the ball in his hands more.


Jayden Brown, Sr., LB | Player profile


A Syracuse commit, Brown is a leader of the Ironmen defense. He is a physical player, with plenty of speed to also cover receivers. Brown is at his best when he is running downhill and blitzing through gaps and getting into the backfield.


Logan Bush, Sr., RB | Player profile


Bush has arguably been Don Bosco’s most consistent offensive player this season, rushing for a team-high 266 yards and four touchdowns. The Ironmen will have to establish the run on Friday, and Bush is going to have to be patient when he has the ball.


Hunter Ditrano-Smith, Jr., TE | Player profile


A rangy athlete, Ditrano-Smith has the third most catches this season, hauling in six passes for 43 yards. He can be a safety blanked for quarterback Deven Sisler.


Marquet Dorsey, Jr., DB | Player profile


A talented junior defensive back, Dorsey will have his hands full matching up against Bergen Catholic’s wide receivers. Dorsey isn’t afraid to come up and make a tackle, either.


Aidan Horodnik, Sr., DL | Player profile


Horodnik is off to a good start during his senior season and played well during Don Bosco’s loss to St. Joseph (Mont.), recording a sack and two tackles for loss. Horodnik has to get into the backfield and help stop the run on Friday.


Lamont Lester, Sr., DE | Player profile


One of Don Bosco’s captains, Lester has the ability to wreck havoc in the backfield. He had 16 tackles for loss last season and will be a key player on Friday.


Bobby Mays, Sr., WR | Player profile


Mays has the frame to be a matchup nightmare on the outside. At 6-foot-5, Mays has been Don Bosco’s top receiver this season, catching 17 passes for 155 yards. Look for Mays to be targeted often on Friday.


Deven Sisler, Jr., QB | Player profile


Sisler is going to get his first taste of the Bergen-Bosco rivalry as he will be making his fifth start in a Bosco uniform. Sisler has done some nice things this season, throwing for 364 yards but has thrown five interceptions. He will have to take care of the ball against a fast and physical Bergen Catholic defense.


Jordan Thomas, Sr., DL | Player profile


Thomas, a Georgia commit, is arguably the biggest key for Don Bosco’s defense heading into the game. He commands double teams because of his size in the interior and he allows other defensive linemen and linebackers to get into the backfield and make plays.

Football: Bergen Catholic vs. Don Bosco Prep, September 24, 2022

Don Bosco Prep Head Coach Dan Sabella during the football game between No. 1 Bergen Catholic and No. 3 Don Bosco Prep at Bergen Catholic in Oradell, NJ on Friday, September 23, 2022. Scott Faytok | NJ Advance Media


Keys to victory


Bergen Catholic wins if: Its offense doesn’t get stuck in its tracks against the talented Ironmen defense. The Crusaders offense has been inefficient through their first four games and they can march down the field in a variety of ways. As stacked as this unit was in 2022, they have even more weapons at their disposal this fall. Porter is one of the nation’s best receivers and the likes of Parrish, Perrotti, Thomas, senior Luca Cuttita and sophomore Jermaine Kinsler among others can also make you pay in the passing game. Campanile distributes it to everyone. The three-headed monster of Sanders, junior Mujahid Russell and sophomore Dante Kain deliver body blows to the defense and can take over a game in the fourth quarter. The offensive line is working without star senior left tackle Nyier Daniels as he’s expected to rest another week due to a leg injury, but sophomore Mikey McMahon looked the part in his place on Saturday. Everyone will have 45-0 fresh in their mind, although we can’t forget the job the Ironmen front seven did in last year’s regular season matchup between these two. The Crusaders need to keep humming offensively. -- Ryan Patti


Don Bosco Prep wins if: It takes care of the ball offensively, slows the game down and wins the turnover battle. This is a different Don Bosco offense compared to last season, which was expected after the graduation of players like Nick Minicucci, Chase Bisontis and Chase Moreno. The new pieces are still trying to gel and get into a rhythm but will have to find a way to move the ball against Bergen Catholic’s defense. Establishing the run with Bush will be key to sustain drives, taking time off the clock and not giving the ball to Bergen Catholic’s quick-strike offense. Sisler has to take care of the ball and find players like Bush, Mays and Ditrano-Smith when he is on the move out of the pocket. Defensively, the Ironmen are going to have to force Campanile and the Bergen Catholic offense into mistakes. There is a pathway for Don Bosco to win the game and it includes getting a takeaway or two and capitalizing on the mistakes. -- Luis Torres


Our predictions: See this week’s picks and predictions what NJ.com’s football reporters had to say on Thursday.

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20 years ago, Bergen Catholic nearly knocked off Don Bosco's greatest football team

636419612715218692-gregtartaglia.jpg?widGreg Tartaglia

The top candidate for “greatest high school football team in North Jersey history” earned that distinction by responding to the greatest challenge.

This December, Don Bosco will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its 2003 NJSIAA Parochial Group 4 championship team.

That the Ironmen defeated archrival Bergen Catholic, 14-13, in the state final that year was all too fitting. The fact that the Crusaders nearly pulled an all-time upset took the game to the “legendary” level.

Here is a look back at how the contest unfolded and what it meant, as chronicled in the NorthJersey.com archives.

East Rutherford, NJ - Parochial Group 4. Don Bosco vs. Bergen Catholic. Don Bosco Coach Greg Toal embraces quarterback Michael Teel after a win at Giants Stadium on Dec. 9, 2003.

Pregame buildup

The Ironmen entered the 2003 Parochial Group 4 final – the last before the NJSIAA changed its private-school classification to “Non-Public” – on a 23-game win streak.

They won their first 10 games by an average score of 54-7. The closest margin was 28 points in an opening-day victory over Ridgewood, the eventual North 1, Group 4 champ.

Bergen Catholic succumbed to the Don Bosco juggernaut in Week 3, 49-8, less than a year after bowing in the teams’ 2002 state-final clash, 26-7.

“We’re ready,” Ironman senior tailback Brian Toal told The Record leading up to the rematch. “This is the biggest game I’ve ever played.”

East Rutherford, NJ -- NJSIAA Parochial Group 4 football final, Don Bosco vs. Bergen Catholic.  Don Bosco celebrates a 14-13 win at Giants Stadium. FRONT ROW, from left: Ryan Gorsuch (52), Brian Toal (1), defensive coordinator Johnny Ray Garvin, Brad Atkinson (46), Chris Kievit (42), Corey Wooten (89), John Ridley (23) and John Rzeznik (57). Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2003. MEL EVANS / THE RECORD

But kickoff was delayed an extra four days due to a snowstorm. The NJSIAA moved it from Friday, Dec. 5 to Tuesday, Dec. 9, which allowed it to keep Giants Stadium as the venue.

Crusaders quarterback Chris Allison was quoted in The Record on Dec. 2, saying, “The weather doesn’t matter. It’s all part of the game.”

As for The Record’s prediction of the game? Don Bosco 42, Bergen Catholic 14. The Crusaders’ final total was close, at least.

PREVIEWS:Everything you need to know ahead of Friday's Bergen-Bosco game

The game

In front of an announced crowd 8,062, the Bergen Catholic defense forced a punt on the opening Don Bosco possession, then drove the other way for a 6-0 lead thanks in part to Jim Dray.

The 6-foot-4 junior TE/LB made a 37-yard reception to set up the opening touchdown, then helped the Oradell side retake the lead with a 24-yard TD catch late in the second quarter.

East Rutherford, NJ -- NJSIAA Parochial Group 4 football final, Don Bosco vs. Bergen Catholic.  Don Bosco #2 Michael Garvin defender vs. Bergen Catholic #1 Jim Dray who catches a pass for  a first half touchdown at Giants Stadium. Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2003. MEL EVANS / THE RECORD

“Everyone thought we didn’t have a chance, but we weren’t coming into this game to make it close,” Dray told The Record afterward. “We were coming in here to win.”

Fans in attendance were not the only ones surprised by Bergen Catholic’s 13-7 halftime lead.

“BC made a lot of changes, and we were surprised,” Don Bosco junior Brad Atkinson later told The Ridgewood News.


“It was more shock than anything else,” Ironman senior tackle Eric Cumba told The Record. “They came out sky-high, and it took us three quarters to catch up with them… but we did it.”

Turning point

Despite forcing six turnovers in the game (five interceptions, one fumble), Bergen Catholic was only able to score a touchdown after one of them.

The Don Bosco defense regrouped after allowing 176 yards in the first half and permitted just 30 in the second. The Crusaders went 0-for-8 passing in the third and fourth quarters.

“We made some mistakes, but our defense was the story in the second half,” Ironman coach Greg Toal said.

That allowed the Ramsey squad to save its unbeaten season with 9:29 remaining.

East Rutherford, NJ -- NJSIAA Parochial Group 4 football final, Don Bosco vs. Bergen Catholic. Don Bosco #1 Brian Toal, who scored the game-winning TD in the fourth quarter, finds running room in the first half at Giants Stadium. Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2003. MEL EVANS / THE RECORD

Senior quarterback Mike Teel faked a handoff to speedster Michael Ray Garvin (10.7 yards per carry) running left and threw a swing pass to Brian Toal in the right flat. Toal broke two tackles and juked a third attempt on his way to a 57-yard touchdown.

“What can you do?” Dray said. “The kid [Toal] is a great player.”

All-Bergen County kicker Joe Marcoux added the PAT to punctuate the lowest-scoring contest in Don Bosco’s 24-game win streak.

“I can’t remember the last time we were held to 14 points,” Brian Toal said to The Ridgewood News.


Toal (26 carries, 128 yards, 2 TD), who went on to play at Boston College, was named Gannett Defensive Player of the Year and was one of four Ironmen named to the All-State first team, along with Teel (Rutgers), Cumba (New Hampshire) and Marquise Liverpool (Temple).

East Rutherford, NJ -- NJSIAA Parochial Group 4 football final, Don Bosco vs. Bergen Catholic.  Don Bosco receiver #3 Marquise Liverpool is tackled by Bergen Catholic #24 Matt McGuire as #22 Jean-Pierre Wolver intercepts a pass at Giants Stadium. Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2003. MEL EVANS / THE RECORD

Dray (Stanford) made six catches for 134 yards in the first half before the Ironmen employed a double team to keep him off the second-half stat sheet. Crusaders RB/LB Brian Cushing (USC) made 14 tackles despite being “limited” by a bone bruise in his knee.

Both went on to play in the NFL, but not before returning for the senior year to help Bergen Catholic earn some payback in the 2004 Non-Public Group 4 final, a 13-10 Crusader win.

Dray went so far as to predict as much: “There is always next year,” he said in the Dec. 10, 2003 Record. “They are getting it next year, I’ll tell you that much.”

They said it.

“This is the greatest team I’ve ever coached. No question. Give a lot of credit to Bergen Catholic, but to win when you don’t play well means you are a great, great football team.” — Greg Toal to The Record (Dec. 10, 2003)

“I take my hat off to Bosco. Things didn’t go well for them… but championship teams find a way to win. I couldn’t be more proud of my kids against what anybody would consider to be insurmountable odds.” — Bergen Catholic coach Fred Stengel to The Ridgewood News (Dec. 12, 2003)

“We knew we were going to win the game. We didn’t know how, but we knew we would win it.” — Brian Toal to The Ridgewood News (Dec. 12, 2003)

“We knew it was going to come down to us and Bergen, like it did last year. We weren’t getting the breaks we needed… but our defense just stepped it up.” — Teel to The Ridgewood News (Dec. 19, 2003)

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