H.S. football: NJSIAA non-public state semifinals preview
Holy Spirit quarterback Sean Burns looks to avoid a sack against Cherokee in the Battle at the Beach in Ocean City, New Jersey on August 28, 2022. Joshua Guirguis/D2 Sports Network
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association high school football non-public state semifinals have arrived, with eight teams left throughout New Jersey vying for a state championship. Who will reach MetLife Stadium? Here's a look at each of the four playoff matchups in Non-Public A and Non-Public B coming up this weekend with state final berths on the line:
Seton Hall Prep (6-5 record) at Don Bosco Prep (8-2), Friday, 7 pm
The Pirates terminated a four-game losing skid with back-to-back wins over Pope John and St. Joseph (Montvale) in the NJSIAA Non-Public A playoffs. The 34-30 triumph over the Green Knights catapulted Seton Hall Prep to its first state semifinal appearance since 2010. Liam Londergan completed 25 out of 41 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns. The junior signal caller also rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown. Mason Mac was his top target with nine receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown. Junior Julius Vicari added five catches for 45 yards and a touchdown. Christian Black and Elijah Rippey led the Pirates defense with 14 tackles each. Jaylen McClain and Christopher Peralta each tallied 13 tackles. Senior Darren Burton II snagged an interception in the triumph.
Don Bosco Prep, the consensus top-ranked school in New Jersey, sailed past St. Augustine, 37-0, in the Non-Public A quarterfinals last Saturday. Quarterback Nicholas Minicucci completed nine out of 17 pass attempts for 171 yards and a touchdown. The Delaware commit also added 42 rushing yards. Logan Bush rushed for a team-best 79 yards and two touchdowns, and Ronnie Heath added 66 yards and a score on the ground. Dan Parisi grabbed a game-high four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. Bobby Mays added two receptions for 72 yards.
Linebacker Jayden Brown powered the Ironmen's defense with four tackles and a tackle for loss. The junior currently holds offers from Syracuse, Maryland, Boston College, Duke, Temple, UConn and Akron. Chase Bisontis, a Texas A&M commit and the top-rated recruit in the Garden State, contributed a sack and a tackle. Mikey Genardi reeled in an interception.
Don Bosco Prep defeated Seton Hall Prep, 35-21, in the last meeting on October 14. Bush rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns. Nolan James, Jr. also scampered for 117 yards and a score. The Ironmen tallied 387 total rushing yards as Minicucci added 88 yards and a touchdown.
Don Bosco Prep has won four out of the previous five meetings since 2013.
Delbarton (6-5) at Bergen Catholic (9-1), Saturday, 1 pm
Delbarton stunned St. Peter's Prep, 35-12, to advance to the Non-Public A state semifinals. The victory offset a 32-27 loss to the Marauders on September 16. Ryan Trafford rushed an astounding 38 times for 282 yards and three touchdowns. Trafford has rushed for 1,490 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. Sophomore Brock Dandridge added 48 yards and a score on the ground.
The Green Wave defense forced Maryland commit Champ Long to throw two interceptions and limited St. Peter's Prep to its lowest scoring total (12) in a game this season. Pittsburgh commit Zion Fowler reeled in four receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown for the Marauders. Tufts commit Justin Slabaugh led Delbarton with a team-high 10 tackles. Troy Bailey and Tyler DaSilva combined for seven tackles and tallied an interception each. Kyle Checchio charted nine tackles and a tackle for loss.
Bergen Catholic cruised past Donovan Catholic, 41-7, in the state quarterfinals last Saturday. Jack Duffy completed eight out of 10 pass attempts for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Princeton commit Jack Comeau hauled in eight receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown. Quincy Porter snagged five receptions for 71 yards and two touchdowns.
Joseph Berry powered the defense with seven tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Malachi Mercer posted a team-high eight tackles and contributed 0.5 tackles for loss. Three-star recruit Kaj Sanders snared two interceptions. Sanders holds offers from Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Duke, Louisville and Georgia Tech, among others. Naiim Parrish also added two interceptions.
The Crusaders have won five straight contests since a 31-7 setback to Don Bosco Prep on September 26. Thier offense is averaging 33.7 points per game this season.
Bergen Catholic has won each of the last three matchups against the Green Wave since 2017.
The Crusaders defeated Delbarton, 21-6, on September 10. Delaware commit Saeed St. Fleur exploded for 130 rushing yards and a touchdown in the triumph. Maryland commit D.J. Samuels added a 69-yard rushing score. Samuels also contributed five tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. Three-star recruit Elijah Kinsler led the Crusaders' defense with six tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Kinsler picked up an offer from Louisville on November 2. The junior also holds offers from UConn, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Akron. Defensive end Anthony Morales posted six tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, and Texas commit Sydir Mitchell contributed two tackles and a tackle for loss.
Holy Spirit (8-1) at Red Bank Catholic (9-1), Friday, 7 pm
The Spartans won their sixth in a row and advance to the Non-Public B state semifinals with a 50-21 win over St. Thomas Aquinas last Friday. Sophomore Jahcere Ward exploded for 106 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Sean Burns racked up 309 yards on 21-for-35 passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Gavin Roman hauled in 14 receptions for 192 yards to complement 63 rushing yards and a score. Senior Jayden Llanos snared three catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Mallen also reeled in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Burns. Sean Finan powered the Spartans defense with 5.5 tackles and a sack. Robert McDevitt added 4.5 tackles and a team-high 1.5 sacks. Xaiver Hernandez also tallied 1.5 sacks to complement four tackles.
Holy Spirit's Jayden Llanos reels in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Sean Burns against Cherokee in the Battle at the Beach in Ocean City, New Jersey on August 28, 2022. Joshua Guirguis/D2 Sports Network
First-year coach Andrew DiPasquale has led Holy Spirit to an 8-1 record through his first nine games. The Spartans' resume consists of statement victories against Cherokee, Washington Township, St. Augustine and Kingsway.
Red Bank Catholic advanced to the state semifinals for the second consecutive season with a 62-7 win over Gloucester Catholic. Frankie Williams completed eight out of nine pass attempts for 139 yards and a touchdown. Sabino Portella, a North Carolina wrestling commit, rushed for 72 yards and two touchdowns. Portella has 864 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground this season. Robert Stolfa hauled in two receptions for a game-high 60 yards and Najih Rahman caught four passes for 52 yards. Rahman has 41 receptions for 503 receiving yards and six touchdowns this season. Junior Emanuel Ross has 24 receptions for a team-high 504 yards and eight touchdowns.
Davin Brewton charted five tackles and a tackle for loss while Aidan Donahue added four tackles and a team-high two tackles for loss in the 62-7 triumph over the Rams. Brewton, a three-star recruit with offers from Pittsburgh, Syracuse, UMass and West Virginia, leads the Caseys with 87 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and four sacks this season. Mike Palmieri forced a fumble and recovered it for a touchdown in the win.
Red Bank Catholic has won four straight contests since a 17-0 setback to Non-Public A state semifinalist Seton Hall Prep on September 30. Prior to its lone loss of the 2022 campaign, RBC cruised past Central Jersey Group 4 runner-up Middletown South, 35-0, and knocked off Donovan Catholic, 14-7.
A win for the Caseys would secure a second straight state final berth. Red Bank Catholic defeated DePaul, 13-8, in the NJSIAA Non-Public B state final in 2021.
St. Joseph Academy (6-2) at DePaul (5-5), Friday, 7 pm
The Wildcats of Hammonton advanced to the Non-Public B state semifinals with a 17-0 win over Montclair Immaculate. Jaevien Swain rushed for an eight-yard touchdown and quarterback James Mantuano added a one-yard rushing score.
St. Joseph has won six out of its last seven games since a season-opening 30-10 loss to St. Augustine. Paul Sacco's squad earned quality wins over Non-Public B state semifinalist Holy Spirit, Central Jersey Group 2 champion Willingboro, Cedar Creek, Ocean City and Central Jersey Group 5 runner-up Lenape.
Senior Richard Chandler has fueled the ground attack with 347 rushing yards and three touchdowns this season. Mantuano has added 187 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Nasir Mahmoud has been Mantuano's favorite target with 31 receptions for 480 yards and four touchdowns. The junior has 774 all-purpose yards and six total touchdowns.
Sophomore Julius Townsel leads the defense with 69 tackles. Fellow sophomore Julius Wilson has contributed 47 tackles and 13 tackles for loss. Demarion McCoy's 14 tackles for loss ranks first on the team. The senior also has 3.5 sacks. Sophomore James Steel leads St. Joseph with 4.5 sacks and has also provided 10 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. Mahmoud, Townsel and freshman Dawain Jackson each have two interceptions on defense.
Senior kicker Trevin DelGozzo has nailed seven out of eight field goal attempts and has a 94% success rate (15-for-16) on extra point attempts. The senior drilled a 34-yard field goal with one second left in a 29-28 win over Lenape.
The Spartans reached the state semifinals with a 42-13 win over Immaculata. Quarterback Derek Zammit completed eight out of 13 pass attempts for 183 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The freshman also ran for 28 yards and a score. Senior Anthony Almeida generated seven rushes for 52 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore De'zie Jones reeled in three receptions for a game-high 77 yards and a touchdown. Keaon Jenkins and Jadin Johnson also caught touchdown passes.
Sophomore Anthony Nittoli lead DePaul's defense with eight tackles and three tackles for loss. Matt Huliev charted five tackles, a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery. Jeff Lopez, Isaiah Pierce and Ali Seidou tallied seven tackles each.
The Spartans have won four out of their last five matchups with wins over Hudson Catholic, Pope John, Delbarton and Immaculata. DePaul's lone setback during the stretch was a narrow 28-25 loss to Don Bosco Prep on October 28. The Ironmen are the top-ranked team in the Garden State. Nick Campanile's squad is battle-tested with losses to St. Joseph's-Montvale, St. Peter's Prep (ranked seventh in New Jersey), Archbishop Stepinac (NY) and Bergen Catholic (ranked second in New Jersey).
The Spartans reached the Non-Public B state final a season ago and fell to Red Bank Catholic, 13-8.