Cocoa (Fla.) traveled nearly 1,000 miles up the coast to visit the Garden State with just 23 players, seemingly giving Bergen Catholic a heavy advantage in any numbers category.
That is, until the scoreboard melted to zeroes and the Crusaders were left stunned by an out-of-state foe with a far less imposing appearance.
Star running back Tarean Folston rushed for 135 yards and one touchdown and threw for another, while Cocoa executed brilliantly on defense in its 24-14 upset victory over Bergen Catholic on Saturday afternoon.
Lorenzo Pratt added 126 yards and a score for the Tigers, who held their high-octane opponent scoreless in the first half and forced star quarterback Jon Germano to throw four interceptions.
"We got thoroughly whooped," Bergen Catholic coach Nunzio Campanile said. "We turned it over too much, we got out-toughed and outdone effort-wise. We deserved it. We also got out-coached, so shame on me."
Bergen Catholic, which entered the weekend ranked third in the MSG Varsity Tri-State Top 25 poll, dropped to 4-2. The Crusaders now turn their eyes to the highly magnified contest against No. 2 Don Bosco Prep on Oct. 27.
"It's the biggest game of the year, not just because it's Bosco, but because we need a win," Campanile said.
Still, the sting of this loss will linger for the two weeks leading up to that showdown, simply because the Crusaders couldn't handle the sheer athleticism of a team that looked as if it'd be overmatched judging by the sidelines. Bergen Catholic suits up over 100 players, but that didn't faze the Sunshine State speedsters.
"They don't have a lot of players, but all you need is 11," Campanile said. "We learned that the hard way."
Added Folston: "It was 128 against 23, but to us it was 11 on 11. This was a pride game. We came here to show Cocoa pride. Now we're going to go home and celebrate."
Folston, who has received scholarship offers from many high Division I college programs, opened the scoring with an 84-yard touchdown run with 8:27 to go in the second quarter.
Pratt doubled the advantage when he broke free for a 64-yard touchdown run 54 seconds into the third. Then the Tigers took advantage of a fumble by BC running back James Dawson and parlayed that gaffe into a 30-yard field goal eight minutes later.
Germano struck for a pair of short touchdown passes to Garrett Dickerson at the end of the third and in the opening minute of the fourth to give his team some life, but Cocoa's defense clamped down once again.
Folston sealed the shocking win when he took a trick play and heaved a 40-yard scoring strike to claim a 10-point cushion with 4:59 remaining in the contest.
"We knew they are a great football team," Cocoa coach Kevin Wilkinson said. "I'm very emotional because we were coming from 1,000 miles away with 23 kids to play against one of the top teams in the entire country. It's about the kids. I'm happy."
Contact Brian Fitzsimmons at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @FitzWriter