No. 3 Don Bosco football takes on unbeaten No. 1 Bergen Catholic in rivalry showdown
Updated: Sep. 22, 2022, 8:01 p.m.|
Published: Sep. 22, 2022, 8:00 p.m.
Saeed St. Fleur (7) of Bergen Catholic runs through a hole during the football game between No. 13 Delbarton and No. 1 Bergen Catholic at The Delbarton School in Morristown, NJ on Saturday, September 10, 2022. Scott Faytok | NJ Advance Media
Luis Torres | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Ryan Patti | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Dan Sabella walked around the Don Bosco Prep campus on Monday, and he could already feel the buzz in the air.
The atmosphere at the Ramsey-based school is different this week. Even the cafeteria staff is gearing up for the Ironmen’s next game.
It’s Bosco-Bergen week as one of the state’s most storied rivalries writes its next chapter Saturday when No. 3 Don Bosco Prep travels to Oradell to take on No. 1 Bergen Catholic.
“Everybody is into it,” Sabella said. “Doesn’t matter if you’re on the football team or not. The whole student body, the cafeteria staff, all the faculty, everybody is into it. It’s a lot a fun to be a part of, and the place will be buzzing come Saturday afternoon.”
Don Bosco Prep enters the game coming off a disappointing loss to Iona Prep (NY) last weekend. The Ironmen had a rough fourth quarter, committing three turnovers in the final 12 minutes as Iona Prep rallied to shock Sabellla’s squad, dropping them to 2-2 on the season, with both losses coming to out-of-state opponents.
But Sabella believes his team has yet to play to its full potential through four games. He’s confident his team still has more to show in all three phases. The offense is playing well, averaging over 34 points a game, and outside of scoring 10 points in a loss to Edgewater (FL), has scored at least 35 points in each contest.
“I think their offense is dynamic,” Bergen Catholic head coach Vito Campanile said. “Their plays are off the charts, they have a great contingent of receivers, and they can match firepower with everything they have. Nick [Minicucci] is playing good football and having a great season. The key for us is that we have seven guys who have played in this game. It’s seven guys who were either three-year starters or high contributors as sophomores. Our staff focuses on the task at hand and we grind to stay in the position to be successful.”
Bergen Catholic’s identity is its front seven, which is loaded with Division-I talent and promising youngsters who add depth. The Ironmen have premiere big bodies of their own who will be up for the challenge in blocking these guys, but it’s not an ordinary task.
“They’re really solid,” Sabella said. “They are big, they are athletic. They definitely are able to hold the point down, hold their gaps down really well with their size and strength. They present a great challenge.”
Bergen Catholic head coach Vito Campanile during the football game between No. 13 Delbarton and No. 1 Bergen Catholic at The Delbarton School in Morristown, NJ on Saturday, September 10, 2022. Scott Faytok | NJ Advance Media
Don Bosco Prep vs. Bergen Catholic
Kickoff: 1 p.m. at Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell
Last five games
Nov. 27, 2021: Bergen Catholic 28, Don Bosco Prep 7 (Non-Public A championship)
Sept. 24, 2021: Bergen Catholic 17, Don Bosco Prep 0
Nov. 14, 2020: Don Bosco Prep 21, Bergen Catholic 20
Nov. 15, 2019: Don Bosco Prep 24, Bergen Catholic 7 (Non-Public A quarterfinals)
Sept. 27, 2019: Bergen Catholic 23, Don Bosco Prep 17
Coaches: Dan Sabella (25-20, fifth year at Don Bosco); Vito Campanile (36-7, fifth year at Bergen Catholic)
Don Bosco Prep wins if: It can win the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
The Ironmen have one of the best offensive lines in the state, highlighted by Texas A&M commit and left tackle Chase Bisontis. The unit has done a nice job keeping quarterback Minicucci upright and relatively clean through four games, but facing a stout Bergen Catholic defense is the toughest challenge yet. Junior running back Logan Bush was a bright spot in the loss to Iona Prep, rushing for 207 yards and two scores in place of senior tailback Ronnie Heath, whose status is still uncertain heading into Saturday. Establishing the run and giving Minicucci a clean pocket are paramount for Don Bosco.
On the other side of the ball, the Ironmen’s defense has to tackle better and get a push on Bergen Catholic’s offense line. Don Bosco has to contain a backfield that includes seniors Saeed St. Fleur and DJ Samuels, who has been getting carries. Include a two-quarterback system with Jack Duffy and Dominic Campanile, the more active runner of the two, and Bosco has to do a great job getting pressure, setting the edge and getting into the backfield.
Bergen Catholic wins if: Its defense continues to play to the level it has the last two seasons.
This is Sabella’s most talented offense across the board in his time with the Ironmen. The Delaware commit in Minicucci looks a new quarterback this season, already matching his passing touchdown total of a year ago with nine and completing 61.1 percent of his passes vs. his 50.9 percent rate in 2021. He as Camapanile said has a strong receiving core to work with in seniors Dan Parisi, Nasim Cosby and Omaree Walker. Don Bosco Prep also has one of the top gadget players in the state in sophomore Nolan James, who is utilized both out of the backfield and in the slot with his elite speed. The offensive line has multiple four-year starters who pave the way for a talented backfield.
The Crusaders don’t have the bodies in the secondary that they did a year ago, although that front seven is still mostly intact and has passed every test thus far. There’s additionally a lot of value in what Campanile had to say about his team’s experience. This isn’t just an ordinary game. Having plenty of players comfortable in competing in Saturday’s environment is important.
Don Bosco Prep Head Coach Dan Sabella watches his team against St. Joseph (Montvale) during the football game at Don Bosco Preparatory School on 9/9/22.Tom Horak | For NJ Advance Media
Players to watch
Don Bosco Prep
Nick Minicucci, QB, Sr: Minicucci is off to a fantastic start this season, throwing for 1,089 yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for 243 yards and two more scores. He will have to be at his best against the Crusaders’ standout defense.
Logan Bush, RB, Jr.: With Heath’s status in doubt, Bush might be leading the backfield again as he did last week. Bush is averaging 8.2 yards a carry and had a 79-yard run in the loss to Iona Prep.
Chase Bisontis, OL, Sr.: One of the best offensive linemen in the state, Bisontis has been hard to beat by edge rushers this season. He is as big a part as the rest of the offensive line in giving Minicucci a clean pocket. It will be interesting to see if Samuels lines up opposite Bisontis on occasion on Saturday.
Jordan Thomas, Jr., DL: Thomas is arguably Don Bosco’s most talented player on the defensive line with the size to create havoc. He will have to play his best game of the season yet to pressure Bergen Catholic’s quarterbacks and stymie the Crusaders’ run game.
Jayden Brown, Jr., LB: Brown recovered in time for the Ironmen’s game against Iona Prep, recording five tackles after he didn’t finish the win over St. Joseph (Mont.) the previous week. He is active from his linebacker position and has to be up for the challenge of facing Bergen Catholic’s running backs.
Saeed St. Fleur, Sr., RB: St. Fleur has been the workhorse in the backfield for the Crusaders, totaling 451 yards and six touchdowns on 84 carries through the first four games. He has added 104 yards through the air on 11 receptions. Ryan Butler scored 23 touchdowns on the ground and two as a receiver last fall, leaving a huge hole in the offense that St. Fleur has helped fill. The Delaware commit is a handful and one of the toughest backs in the state to tackle.
DJ Samuels, Sr., DL: Samuels had already been one of the state’s most impactful pass rushers, but he’s now becoming a two-way standout for the Crusaders. He scored on two of his three carries a year ago and is starting to find pay dirt from all over the field as a senior. The Maryland pledge has 10 carries for 166 yards and a touchdown this fall, including a 69-yard scamper in Bergen Catholic’s 21-6 win over Delbarton in Week 2. Defensively, he has been his same old self with 13 tackles, six tackles for loss and one sack. He will be a handful for whoever is tasked with blocking him.
Sydir Mitchell, Sr., DL: Mitchell’s presence is felt on every defensive snap as he stuffs opposing run plays and puts mean hits on quarterbacks. The Texas commit has 11 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. He’s also turning into that same type of menace with the ball in his hands (we’re half joking), scoring on a scoop and score in the Crusaders’ 49-14 win over Cardinal Gibbons (NC) and on a one-yard catch against Delbarton.
Malachi Mercer, Sr., LB: Mercer is this team’s tackling machine, but he added his third interception on the season in last week’s 35-14 win over Seton Hall Prep. His first two came just minutes apart from each other in Week 0 against Cardinal Gibbons (NC). Mercer has 22 tackles and three tackles for loss along with a number of FBS and FCS scholarships to choose from at the conclusion of his senior campaign.
Elijah Kinsler, Jr., DL: The talk of Bergen Catholic’s front seven is Samuels, Mitchell and Mercer, however the name the rest of the Big North is quickly getting to know is Kinsler. He’s having one of the best seasons on the defense with a team-high 4.5 sacks, 13 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble that Mitchell scooped for a touchdown in the season opener. Akron, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Syracuse have offered the junior to this point. His 6-5, 240 frame gives him a combination of size and speed coming off the edge.