Peppers dazzles Delbarton in PC debut
The first chapter of Jabrill Peppers’ story at Paramus Catholic looked like a Stephen King novel for the first few pages, until the All-American junior willed the Paladins to a 36-23 win over Delbarton on Saturday.
Peppers, who transferred from Don Bosco Prep, touched the ball a mere nine times including special teams, but those went for nearly 250 all-purpose yards and three scores.
“I love him to death,” head coach Chris Partridge said of Peppers. “He’s an amazing addition to our team and to this school as you could see today. He’s helping us change the culture of what we do here to where everyone is excited about this program.”
It didn’t look like things would go to script in the first quarter as a three and out by the Paladin offense was followed by a botched snap on the punt and a safety made it 2-0, Green Wave.
Paramus Catholic’s second drive looked much like the first and after a punt landed on PC’s side of the 50, Mike Bicknese hit Will Reynolds on a gutsy play action call on fourth down for Delbarton’s first touchdown of the season for a 9-0 lead.
Paramus Catholic would finally get the ball moving on its third drive, but on a freaky play, a tipped ball found its way to Delbarton’s Brendan Huston, who scampered home with another TD. The first quarter of the Paladins’ season had now seen the black and gold down 16-0 in front of a shocked group of rabid fans.
“Just keep playing,” said Peppers of his message to his teammates. “We’re in a dogfight and nobody said it was going to be easy. I told my team ‘let’s go, you’ve got to ride with me.'”
And ride Peppers, they did.
Lined up left of center on the flank, Peppers burst off the line at the snap before making a slight hesitation and cut to the middle of the field and when Steve Shanley hit him in stride, No. 5 did the rest.
“I could see room out wide so I knew if I beat the first guy I was gone but he slowed me down so I came back to middle to bait the safety then it was just wide open.”
Sounds easy enough, but to watch this guy operate in space and the power with which he runs, you realize you’re watching something special.
“He’s such a humble kid, but the truth is he’s probably the best we’ve ever had,” Partridge said. “To see how easy he makes it look and how hard he is to stop, it’s really a lot of fun and it’s a credit to how hard he works at it.”
Tyrone Washington’s 53 yards receiving on the next drive set the Paladins up deep in Delbarton territory, and when Peppers finally got the call, he brought his team within 16-14.
“We have some big time players on the edge and they all played well,” Partridge said. “The passing game is going to be a force all year, we have a heck of a lot of athletes with Keyon (Washington), Tyrone and Najee (Clayton) so we are going to spread the ball around. You’re going to see that all year."
After a slow start the whole offense played well, but Peppers stole the show.
His next highlight came midway through the third with Delbarton backed up inside its own 10. Mr. Do-it-all was waiting at midfield, and after making two guys miss, he sprinted down before just touching the sideline at the 4. Keyon Washington would punch it in on the very next play, and just like that it was 22-16, Paladins.
Delbarton was not impressed, though, and was certinly not going to go lightly. Brian Bowers’ veteran squad was 11-1 last year and the Non Public, Group 3 runner up, and the Green Wave kept it a game until the very end.
“We have the spotlight and I want the spotlight, but that’s also why I am not happy. I want us to be better than what we showed today. We are going to continue to get better and closer as a team and we’re going to continue to win a lot of football games,” Partridge said after the game.
Paramus Catholic may have had more horses than Delbarton but it certainly did not outplay the Green Wave. Penalties and missed opportunities marked the shaky start, but when Delbarton turned it over on downs at the Paramus Catholic 30, the stud bailed them out one more time. On this run it was the power of the 6-foot-1 215 pound gazelle that was on display as Peppers shook and carried defenders all the way down the field for a 67-yard score.
“We showed ourselves what we can do especially to come back, overcoming adversity, “ said Peppers. “It’s perfect, we have a lot of guys that can make plays, a lot of explosive ability and I have no problem with the ball being spread around. As long as you do something with it get positive yards, my mouth is shut."
Delbarton would muster another scoring drive with Brendan Huston getting in the end zone for a second time with a 10-yard grab on a pretty ball by Bicknese and would even get it back with a chance to win when PC’s field goal try on the ensuing drive was blocked.
With the Green Wave short on time and options Bicknese would heave one into the Paramus Catholic secondary where Saleem Brightwell snatched it down and took it all the way back for the PC touchdown.
“We probably played more base defense then we’ll play all year because of their type of offense, and it can be hard not to go outside yourself, but you have to stick with it. We didn’t help ourselves early but I thought we did a good job tackling today and limiting their big plays by sticking to what we do and not turning it over.”
Peppers and company certainly put their stamp on Week 1 but will admittedly have to be better when the big boys in Group 4 come knocking.
“Oh, yeah, we’ll have to be better than this, but we will be,” Peppers said with an assured smile. “We’re a tight bunch and we have a lot of young guys with a lot of skill. The sky’s the limit.”
With plenty of sophomores and juniors in the lineup, this book is just being started, but it should be a great read.
Contact John Quirk at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @QuirkMedia