It was only fitting St. Joseph Regional turned in its most complete, balanced effort on a holiday about coming together.
Mark Fossati registered a rushing touchdown and booted two field goals, while Brion Wynn added a score on the ground as St. Joseph Regional stifled mighty Don Bosco Prep, 20-10, on Thanksgiving morning.
The Green Knights, ranked No. 4 in the MSG Varsity Tri-State Top 25, became the first New Jersey team to defeat the No. 1 Ironmen since 2005, a stretch that spanned over 61 games.
They accomplished the feat thanks, in large part, to a punishing running scheme; St. Joseph held a 177-38 margin on the ground. And when the offense wasn't sinking the usually stingy Ironmen, the defense stole the spotlight, too. Kiy Hester recovered a fumble and nabbed an interception on defense, and Fossati led the squad with 10.5 tackles.
St. Joe’s was careful and calculated where Don Bosco was uncharacteristically sloppy and mistake-prone. The Ironmen turned the ball over on its first two drives and stalled its next two with costly penalties. On the day, the Ironmen committed six penalties for 55 yards.
"Our defense really played a full 48 minutes and that was the difference," said Hester. "Their defense is always tough and we knew points would be tough to get, but our defense made big plays all day and even forced them into some of those penalties I think."
Hester was a transfer this season from DePaul Catholic and shined in his first chance suiting up for one of the great rivalry games in New Jersey.
"There was a lot of pressure being a transfer, people expect you to make an impact and to be a difference maker. I was just trying to go out there and play my game, compete with my teammates," the highly coveted Division I recruit said. "I knew there was something special here and these are the types of games you want to have when the pressure is highest, so I'm thrilled -- I feel like I earned some turkey."
After Wynn notched his 10-yard touchdown run and handed St. Joe's a 10-0 lead midway through the first, a holding call negated a 40-yard punt return by Isaiah Hill that would have set Bosco up at the 5-yard line. At that point it started to feel like maybe a perfect fall day was not going to go as scripted for Greg Toal and company.
Fossati extended the cushion to 20-3 late in the fourth on a touchdown run off a fake field goal. Even though Tom Sweeney hauled in a touchdown catch from junior quarterback Frank Nutile shortly thereafter to slice the deficit to 10, there simply was not enough time for the Ironmen as St. Joe's clamped down and held on.
An inspired effort by the Green Knights' front four forced Bosco away from its traditionally pounding run attack, and Nutile was under constant pressure from Fossati, Anthony Paolello, Troy Kay, Dom Carfagno, Matt Buckman and Joel Campo -- who set up shop in the Ironmen backfield all day.
Don Bosco was dominated at the point of attack in a way that folks in Northern New Jersey hadn't seen in a long, long time. Joel Campo played with a heavy heart following the death of his father two days earlier and he talked about what the win meant to him after the game.
"It means so much to me," Campo said. "Everyone at St. Joe’s has been so supportive. We are a family and I know my dad was with our team today helping us out.
"I'm obviously still sad but it has made me really happy we got this win," continued the senior with game ball in hand.
For the first time since 1999, St. Joe’s has beaten Bergen Catholic and Don Bosco in the same season. Now, it will look to continue its journey with a win over Red Bank Catholic on Dec. 1 in the semifinals of the Non-Public Group 3 tournament.
"At the start of the year we talk about three things, beat Bergen, beat Bosco, and get a ring," explained Fossati. "Right now we have two of our goals accomplished and it feels great but we still expect to finish what we started."
Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks rushed for 43 yards, while Nutile completed 21-of-31 attempts for 194 yards and one score for the Ironmen, who will face rival Bergen Catholic in the Non-Public Group 4 semifinals next Friday.
Contact John Quirk at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @QuirkMedia