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(Photo by Sunil Sunder Raj - JSN)

Bergen Catholic cruises past St. Joseph (Montvale)

The Bergen Catholic Crusaders (6-1) and St. Joseph (Montvale) Knights (3-4) squared off in the annual Great American Rivalry Series, this time at Robert Joseph Dinallo Stadium located behind Saint Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, New Jersey.

Both teams were coming off a bye week, having last played on September 30. Bergen Catholic rolled to a 35-7 over DePaul Catholic, while St. Joe's crushed Donovan Catholic, 41-13, in the Zone6ix Classic at MetLife Stadium.

On a majestical fall day with golden sunshine and deep blue skies, both student sections packed their respective bleacher sections along with parents, fans, cheerleaders, and people sitting atop the hill and behind the fences.

In the first quarter, the Crusader's defense forced the Green Knights into a quick three and out on their first offensive possession of the game. Bergen Catholic's offense started at their 34-yard line. Sophomore quarterback Dominic Campanile engineered an outstanding15-play 66-yard drive that chewed up over four minutes of the clock. Campanile capped off the impressive drive by tossing a 22-yard touchdown strike to sophomore wide receiver Quincy Porter down the middle of the seam.

With less than three minutes remaining in the quarter, the Crusader's defense rose to the occasion and knocked the ball out on a running play that led to a fumble recovery.

Bergen Catholic went to a pound and ground attack, running the ball four consecutive times, that resulted in senior running back Saeed St. Fleur plowing through for a five-yard touchdown with 43 seconds left.

St. Joe's responded quickly when the Crusaders appeared ready to put this game away early. Sophomore quarterback Joey Gaston launched a 57-yard scoring bomb to sophomore wide receiver John Forster 26 seconds into the second quarter.

Bergen Catholic returned the ensuing kickoff to the 37-yard line, and the offense continued to fire on all cylinders. Dominic Campanile completed a 30-yard pass to senior wide receiver Logan Casey that advanced the ball to the Green Knight's 39-yard line.

Campanile showcased his throwing abilities and running, scrambling out of the pocket and sprinting to St. Joe's nine-yard line. On third and goal from the six-yard line, Campanile took the snap, rolled to his left, and lofted a touchdown pass to senior tight end Jack Comeau in the left corner of the end zone that widened the advantage to 21-7.

The Crusaders defense continued to be relentless, forcing another Green Knights three and out on offense. After a short punt, the Bergen Catholic had an excellent field position at St. Joe's 44-yard line. Bergen Catholic had no difficulty advancing the ball inside the ten-yard line, but the drive stalled out due to the Green Knight's defense standing tall.

The Crusaders had to settle for a field goal attempt that proved no issue as sophomore placekicker Guytano Bartolomeo drilled home a 24-yard field goal through the uprights at the eight-minute mark. On the ensuing Green Knights offensive possession, quarterback Joey Gaston attempted to throw a pass near the St. Joe's sidelines. Still, sophomore defensive back Naiim Parrish leaped into the air snagging the ball one-handed for the spectacular interception at St. Joe's 42-yard line.

Bergen Catholic changed the scheme on offense, mixing up the run and pass, leading to a red zone opportunity. The Crusaders were able to reach the three-yard line. On the first three plays, Saeed St. Fleur attempted to score his second touchdown, but the Green Knight's defense was defiant in stopping St. Fleur from the goal line.

There was no doubt that Bergen Catholic would go for it for the fourth time. This time Campanile handed the ball off to senior De'Juan Samuels, standing tall at 6'2 and weighing 240 pounds. Still, Samuels could not cross the goal line as St. Joe's defensive line displayed grit and determination, stuffing Samuels and resulting in a turnover on downs.

The Crusaders' stout defense again forced a swift three out by the Green Knight's offense. Another minimal punt provided the Bergen Catholic with a short field. Dominic Campanile got ample time to work in the pocket and connected on a 21-yard pass to Saeed St. Fleur. Campanile found a favorite target in Quincy Porter for a substantial gain. On first and goal at the five-yard line, Campanile dropped back in the pocket and fired a pass to senior wide receiver Christian Carti who managed to burst right into the end zone for the score with less than two minutes remaining in the quarter.

St. Joe's ignited a rebuttal with Joey Gaston airing out a 70-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Jovon Williams, leading to the Green Knights' offense setting up shop at the Crusaders' four-yard line. With less than 50 seconds left, Gaston took the handoff and rumbled into the end zone as St. Joe's narrowed the gap to 31-14, which ended up being the score at halftime.

Once the second half got underway, Naiim Parrish recorded another acrobatic catch. Joey Gaston attempted a deep pass into Bergen Catholic territory, but Parrish was in the right place to reel in the pick.

In the fourth quarter, the Green Knights showed their mettle with Joey Gaston hooking up with senior wide receiver Donovan McKoy on a 14-yard touchdown pass that trimmed the deficit to 31-21 with less than minutes to go on the clock. St. Joe's defense flipped the tables as they limited the Crusaders' ability to move the ball down the field efficiently. At the five-minute mark, the Green defense recovered a fumble. However, the Bergen Catholic defense flew high again, forcing a three and out.

Late in the quarter, the Green Knights' offense looked to close the gap even further. Still, Crusaders senior linebacker Malachi Mercer sealed the victory by swooping in for an interception on a pass thrown by Gaston near the Bergen Catholic sidelines.

Bergen Catholic Takes Trophy and MVP Award

Afterward, post-game handshakes occurred between both teams. Crusaders' players celebrated the win with the Crusader Crazies. Senior defensive lineman Sydir Mitchell was presented with the Great American Rivalry Series Trophy, while Saeed St. Fleur was named Most Valuable Player.