Bergen Catholic, Don Bosco Prep
(Photo by John Hund - JSN)

Bergen Catholic at Don Bosco Prep Game Preview (9/22/23)

There are numerous high school football rivalries that call New Jersey their stomping grounds. Many programs spanning across the entire state have made names for themselves at some point in time. But none could hold a candle to the two powerhouses that are seated in Northeastern New Jersey, at the heart of Bergen County: the Crusaders from Bergen Catholic and the Ironmen from Don Bosco Prep.

The 79th edition of this half-century rivalry is set to take place this Friday at Bosco’s Granatell Stadium in Ramsey. While Don Bosco has the lead in terms of the rivalry’s all time record (41-35-2), Bergen Catholic has certainly been the better program as of late, coming off of back-to-back state championship runs that included a combined 23-1 record across two seasons.

Bosco, sitting at a disappointing 1-3 record to start their 2023 campaign, is looking to bounce back in their first game against BC since the 45-0 blowout loss they suffered last November in the state championship game at MetLife Stadium. With key players such as Chase Bisontis (graduated), Nick Minicucci (graduated), and Nolan James Jr. (transferred to DePaul Catholic) out the door, Bosco has yet to see their  new team come into fruition.

On a positive note, the Ironmen had an upset of their own almost a year to the day, a 31-7 thumping of the Crusaders on the latter’s home turf. While things haven’t turned out great for Bosco so far this year, head coach Dan Sabella and company are no strangers to regular season success.

Meanwhile in Oradell, coach Vito Campanile and the Crusaders, sitting at a 3-1 record, have flipped the switch in terms of the rivalry’s recent history. As mentioned above, Bergen Catholic is coming off back-to-back state championships, both at the hands of the Ironmen in the Meadowlands. Their undefeated 2021-22 campaign was capped off with a 28-7 championship victory, then followed that up with an 11-1 record and a 45-0 final (both vs Bosco) the year after. Despite losing key players of their own, such as DJ Samuels (graduated), Saeed St. Fleur (graduated), and Malachi Mercer (graduated), Bergen hasn’t seemed to have missed a beat coming into this new season.

One could say it’s a changing of the guards. The Ironmen are almost a decade and a half removed from Bosco’s historic three-peat national championship run from 2009-2011 with then-head coach Greg Toal at the helm (now a member of BC’s coaching staff). Meanwhile, a Bergen Catholic program that has been great for years has now become the class of New Jersey high school football.

All things considered, there’s one constant that has remained the same through the near-eighty games the schools have played against each other: the hatred these two clubs have for one another isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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