Without injured star, BC faces big challenges
In the early spring, football fanatics began talking up Bergen Catholic as the legitimate favorite to win its section. And who could’ve blamed them?
There was plenty of evidence from last season to give the Crusaders a nod of approval for being the club to knock off Don Bosco Prep from its throne in Non-Public Group 4.
Aside from third-year coach Nunzio Campanile closing the gap between the two North Jersey juggernauts, quarterback Jon Germano was returning and so was his star receiver John Tsimis.
Those who stated with clarity that this is Bergen’s year suddenly were forced to reconsider their unflappable confidence when Tsmimis suffered a torn ACL in preseason workouts.
So the Crusaders enter Friday’s showdown with St. Anthony’s of Long Island (MSG Varsity iO Ch. 14, 7 p.m.) with a championship-caliber team, but without their biggest weapon aside from Germano.
Make no mistake; Campanile and company are thoroughly certain this could be the fall the program earns its first crown since 2004, when it boasted the likes of current NFL star Brian Cushing. However, things have gone back to being cloudy – if they weren’t already.
Tsimis, a Rutgers commit who notched 50 catches, 754 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior, is out for the season, leaving Bergen Catholic scrambling for help.
But based on current developments at camp, Bergen Catholic will be just fine at the receiver position.
“Losing John, at least he got injured at a time where other guys can understand they have opportunities now to get better,” Campanile said. “Jared Finkel and Mike Sherlock are two guys who have gotten a great opportunity and are going to be good players for this program.”
The two looked especially solid during preseason, snagging deep passes in coverage from Germano. The pair also seems poised to serve as nice complements to star tight ends Kyle Queiro, Garrett Dickerson and JJ Kulcsar.
“And Kyle (Queiro) plays defense, too, so those guys have gotten even more repetitions,” Campanile added.
While Germano, featured running back James Dawson and the bevy of ample receivers have worked hard in practice, the entire team has been locked in, according to Campanile.
"It's definitely been a great effort. Everybody's working hard, but obviously there's more work to be done."
The Crusaders are good at talking the talk. Their first matchup against the potent Friars this weekend will begin their journey of walking the walk. Will they, in fact, be fine without Tsimis?
Consider his impact on the program and its competition. There aren’t many receivers in the Garden State with his ability to change a game. He is also known for being a player who elevates his play when the stakes are highest; look no further than his 152-yard, two-touchdown explosion against the Ironmen in Week 4’s 33-22 heartbreaking setback last fall.
Who else in North Jersey can produce the type of numbers for which Tsimis is known? Only one comes to mind: St. Joseph Regional’s Ricky Jeune.
Like Tsimis, Jeune has a knack for making the big play, as he averaged 19.6 yards per catch last season, when he hauled in 41 passes for 805 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Non-Public, Group 3 champion. The speedy wideout went over 100 yards four times last season and is getting plenty of looks from Division I programs.
Whether Jeune is higher in any player rankings is irrelevant. Losing an offensive force such as Tsimis, who notched six games with 65-plus yards in 2011, will hurt any team.
Luckily for the Crusaders, plenty of reinforcements are in place. The pressure is on Queiro, Dickerson, Kulcsar and Finkel, among others. They know it, and we know it.
When it comes to the guessing games, the hourglass is running out of sand. The 2012 season’s kick-off is upon us and we’re about to find out how well Bergen Catholic will fare without a kid MSG Varsity’s Jimmy Cavallo tabbed as “The Magician.”
Talk to any St. Anthony’s player about the Crusaders and you’ll get comments like this, from junior quarterback Greg Galligan: “It's an honor to play one of the best teams in the country."
Now we get to see if Bergen Catholic can finish this marathon of a campaign with the same distinction. No doubt, the Crusaders – fully healthy or not – are up to the challenge.
Contact Brian Fitzsimmons at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @FitzWriter