Bergen Catholic Football vs. St. Joseph Regional
Bergen Catholic's Dante Kain is wrapped up by St. Joseph's Jahmir Joseph. (Photo by John Hund - JSN)

Bergen Catholic wins heavyweight battle against St. Joseph Regional (Montvale)

Due to inclement weather, the Bergen Catholic Crusaders and the St. Joseph Regional(Montvale) Green Knights had to wait a little longer to face each other.

Initially scheduled to play on Saturday at 1 p.m.,  a postponement due to rain moved the game at Jack McGovern Field (Bergen Catholic High School) in Oradell, New Jersey, to Sunday at 1 p.m., which was a blessing in disguise.

It was a magnificent fall day for football, mainly featuring sunny skies, cool temperatures and chilly winds. Bleachers filled to the max, and a standing crowd encircled the fencesβ€”the Crusader Crazies with their annual tradition of running up Oradell Avenue. The game was part of the Great American Rivalry in its 20th year. A pair of United States Marines were in attendance.

An epic showdown with the Crusaders, ranked number one in New Jersey, followed by the second ranked Green Knights. Both teams entered the game with identical records at 5-1.

St. Joe's had multiple opportunities to put the game's first points on the scoreboard early on. Jahmir Joseph provided a signature moment as he blocked a punt deep inside Bergen Catholic territory. However, the Crusaders' defense dug a line in the sand and made huge stops on fourth down to force a turnovers on downs.

Scoreless at the end of the first quarter, the Green Knights broke the stalemate early in the second quarter as running back Yasin Willis muscled his way into the end zone on a two-yard run.

Late in the second quarter, Bergen Catholic strung together a solid drive with quarterback Dominic Campanile completing a pair of passes to wide receiver Quincy Porter.

On first and goal at the St. Joe's two-yard line, Crusaders' running back Dante Kain took the handoff from Dominic Campanile and plowed straight ahead into the end zone for the score, tying the game up at 7-7.

The teams went into the locker room at halftime tied at 7-7. Once the third quarter got underway, Bergen Catholic received the second-half kickoff. St. Joe's special teams attempted to catch the Crusaders off guard with a pooch kick, but a penalty gave Bergen Catholic excellent starting field position.

Appearing as though the Bergen Catholic drive had stalled out at midfield, a roughing of the punter penalty resulted in a first down. Facing third and goal at the Green Knights 11-yard line, Dominic Campanile lofted a pass into the left corner of the end zone to wide receiver Luca Cuttita.

Cuttita skied into the air to make the spectacular catch for the touchdown that put the Crusaders up 14-7 and capped off an impressive drive that chewed up four and a half minutes of the clock.

Bergen Catholic's defense quickly forced a three-and-out on St. Joe's first offensive possession. The Crusaders' offense wasted no time electrifying the home crowd as Dominic Campanile unleashed a 50-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Anthony Perrotti in stride to extend the Crusaders advantage to 21-7 with five minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Green Knights responded with Yasin Willis tallying his second touchdown on a two-yard run to trim the deficit to 21-14.

Bergen Catholic answered with another long-sustained drive, covering seven plays and 80 yards. The Crusaders kept the ball primarily on the ground, with Kaj Sanders receiving the bulk of carries.

Sanders capped off the stellar drive, taking Dominic Campanile's handoff and charging straightforwardly into the clear to the end zone for the 26-yard score that widened the margin to 28-14 with six minutes left.

The back-and-forth action continued with St. Joe's countering in a nine-play 79-yard drive that resulted in Yasin Willis making it a hat trick of touchdowns. This time, Willis barreled straight up the middle from six yards out as the Green Knights closed the gap to 28-21 with 4:45 to go.

Bergen Catholic appeared on the verge of another lengthy drive that would consume time off the clock, but on a running play, a fumble occurred, with St. Joe's Ja'Dyn Williams recovering the ball with three minutes left.

The Green Knights' offense advanced the ball into the Crusaders' territory. On first and ten at the 34-yard line, St. Joe's quarterback Patrick Grusser launched a pass toward the left corner of the end zone, but Bergen Catholic defensive back Jayden Thomas made a tremendous pick while falling backward at the one-yard line.

With the Crusaders backed up deep in their end, the offense ran the ball three times, gaining minimal yardage. St. Joe's used up their timeouts in the process.

On fourth down, Bergen Catholic lined up for the punt, but instead, Quincy Porter took the snap and ran around in the end zone and eventually out for the safety as the Green Knights narrowed the deficit to 28-23 with 1:42 remaining.

A holding penalty against the Crusaders backed up the special teams as they kicked off from the ten-yard line. St. Joe's offense started their ensuing possession at their 46-yard line.

Quarterback Patrick Grusser found a groove, completing four passes in a row as the Green Knights advanced deep into Bergen Catholic territory.

However, the Crusaders' defense stepped up in the clutch, with defensive lineman Benjamin Carey registering his second sack. Linebacker Mason Marck sacked Patrick Grusser on fourth down to seal the 28-23 victory.

After the game ended, a member of the United States Marines awarded Bergen Catholic Head Coach Vito Campanile the Great American Rivalry Series trophy. Meanwhile, Sanders received the Most Valuable Player trophy.