St. Joseph Regional’s offense was finally contained, but whatever happened in the locker room at halftime, it sure worked.
After struggling to find its rhythm in the first two quarters, the Green Knights snapped out of their funk and recaptured their explosiveness en route to cruising past Immaculata, 47-7, in the Non-Public Group 3 semifinals on Saturday afternoon.
Jabari Garvin rushed for three touchdowns and St. Joseph Regional erupted for 27 points in the third to solidify a trip to the sectional championship game for the third time in four years. Tony Karcich’s squad will take on No. 2 Delbarton two weeks from now in the final.
“I liked the way the kids came out in the second half,” Karcich said. “The kids came out with a purpose. It was a huge win for us.”
Before competing for all the marbles, though, St. Joseph will take on Don Bosco Prep, the nation’s top program, on Thanksgiving in a live-broadcast showdown on MSG Varsity iO Ch. 14 at 10:30 a.m.
“In that light, it is a distraction because getting the ring is the most important thing,” Karcich said. “But it’s an opportunity to play the number-one team in the nation. It’s a special opportunity.”
After that, the Green Knights can prepare for its ultimate goal.
Last December, they fell to Holy Spirit, which switched to the Non-Public Group 2 bracket prior to this season, in the title game. St. Joseph previously defeated Immaculata two years in a row to clinch the coveted championship.
In the first 24 minutes of play in this one, however, the Green Knights didn’t look the part of a team poised to be crowned for the third time since 2007.
In the wake of playing without star quarterback Antonio Natale, who was sidelined with a high ankle sprain, Immaculata used a strong defensive performance to hold its high-octane opponent at bay.
Garvin opened the scoring just 1:15 into the first by breaking off a 45-yard scoring run. From there, the depleted Spartans traded punches. Ricky Jeune’s 14-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Spencer Aukamp with 20 seconds remaining in the half revitalized his team and increased the cushion to 13-0 before the half.
It didn’t take long for Garvin to spearhead the second-half rally, as the senior tailback scored off a run from 44 yards out at the 1:32 mark of the third. Four minutes later, he scored a 16-yarder to balloon the Green Knights’ lead to 27-0.
“We came out in the second half more focused,” Garvin said. “(Karcich) said to stop shooting ourselves in the foot (with penalties) and to just play our game. We were expecting a great test.”
Mark Cieslak capitalized on a one-yard plunge shortly thereafter, and Max Havlusch’s interception set up Brion Wynn’s score with 18 seconds remaining in the session to forge a 40-0 advantage.
“We didn’t let it affect our mentality. They’re a tough team,” Cieslak said. “I don’t know what it is, but something happened in that locker room.”
Back-up quarterback Mike Osofsky, who relieved Aukamp at the end of the third, ran one in from three yards out midway through the fourth to punctuate the St. Joseph scoring. Immaculata finally got on the board when Sebastian Hofmann caught a scoring strike with 1:29 left.
Contact Brian Fitzsimmons at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @FitzWriter