America's finest: Don Bosco finishes No. 1
It's Don Bosco Prep and everyone else.
For the last six years, the Ironmen have used a suffocating defense to pave the way toward a string of sectional titles and a rise to national prominence. That scheme didn’t change much on Friday as they benefited from five interceptions, while shutting down an ample opponent en route to wrapping up a second national championship in three years.
Kyle Sakowski had two interceptions, Elijah Shumate scored on another and Spencer Scannell and Razohnn Gross each added picks to seal Don Bosco’s 42-14 triumph over rival Bergen Catholic in the Non-Public Group 4 final at MetLife Stadium.
"I think we set the tone early and never looked back," coach Greg Toal said, sporting a 2011 state champions white cap. "That's a heck of a football team and they're a great rival. Thank God we ended up with more points than they did.
"It's pretty special, two out of three years. It's great. We love our kids, and to win a national championship, it's special."
Shumate added two rushing touchdowns, quarterback Mike Yankovich recorded a pair of his own and Jabrill Peppers contributed a late score to propel the Ironmen, who have won six consecutive titles and finished the season atop America for the first time since 2009. They also ran their winning streak to 46 games, dating back to Week 1 of the 2008 season.
"It was a great performance by both teams," Shumate said. "They put up a good fight, but we wanted this so bad. It's my senior year and I been thinking about this from the beginning."
Don Bosco’s heralded defensive unit set the tone early before a rowdy crowd of 16,712, as Sakowski picked off Bergen Catholic quarterback Jonathan Germano at midfield and set up Yankovich’s 1-yard plunge with 5:22 remaining in the opening quarter.
"Our defensive line puts all the pressure on," Sakowski said. "Without them up front, all those interceptions don't happen."
Shumate doubled the advantage just over two minutes later, when he found the end zone from five yards out. The Crusaders finally broke through, though, as Mike Gerst capitalized on BC’s first successful drive with a 10-yard score with five seconds to go in the session.
In the second, Shumate handed the Ironmen a 21-7 cushion with a 1-yarder at the 1:03 mark, and Sakowski stymied Bergen Catholic’s last-ditch attempt to close the gap with an interception in the end zone with no time on the clock.
The Crusaders got off to a good start in the third, when Ryan Kelly took advantage of a rare Yankovich mistake, intercepting a short pass in the front corner of the end zone. That’s when Bosco flipped the switch and zapped any doubt about the much-anticipated showdown’s outcome.
Shumate intercepted Germano’s first attempt from the 20 after his team’s momentum boost and ran it in for a score, making it 28-7 in favor of Don Bosco.
Kyle Quiero caught a 5-yard scoring strike with 8:49 left in the third to cut the deficit in half, but Scannell continued the pressure on Germano by snaring another attempt and setting up Yankovich’s 15-yard score with 6:04 remaining.
Gross picked off Germano for the last time in the fourth, which led to Peppers' 36-yarder with just over two minutes to go.
"This is just incredible," Yankovich said. "Very few have been able to experience (a national championship), but me and many of these guys have two. It’s incredible."
Contact Brian Fitzsimmons at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @FitzWriter