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Quarterback Jarrett Guarantano during the morning practice at the Elite 11 football camp for high school football players. (Photo: Godofredo Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports)
There might be no one who knows New Jersey football like St. Joseph (Montvale) athletic director and former football coach Tony Karcich. As the former leader of the Green Knights and, at one time, rival Bergen Catholic, he has a perspective on Garden State gridiron affairs that few others have.
So when Karcich says that he believes New Jersey football can stack up with any other state’s competition, it makes sense to listen. His program, now with second-year leader Augie Hoffman at the helm, proved once again that his opinion has merit, as Joe’s, ranked No. 19 in the USA TODAY Super 25, beat up on Eastern Christian (Md.) Saturday, 24-6.
“There are about three or four programs really carrying the banner for New Jersey,” Karcich said.
“Those teams have really carried the torch. But on the whole, sure, I think one thing New Jersey has that many places don’t is truly great coaching — and that includes the public school teams. Take a place like Ridgewood, for example who is always disciplined and well-coached. I think New Jersey has proven it can play with anyone.”
And historically, it has. This weekend was a tough one for Jersey, though, as it went a rather mediocre 5-4 against out-of-state foes, with the North Jersey powerhouses (the Green Knights, Bergen Catholic, Don Bosco Prep, DePaul and St. Peter’s Prep) going just 2-3.
The Crusaders dropped a 31-28 heartbreaker to St. Edward (Ohio) despite a 337-yard, two touchdown passing day by quarterback Jarrett Guarantano.
DePaul committed 16 penalties in a 17-14 loss on the road against Canisius (Buffalo, N.Y.).
As for Joe’s, in rolling to its fourth straight win, it asserted itself barely a minute into the game, scoring on a 34-yard pass from sophomore Nick Patti to senior running back/wide receiver Austin Triglia. Senior wideout Jordan Scott took one in later in the first. The Green Knights’ lines were both solid if not spectacular, and their defense proved it could clamp down when necessary, killing a solid Honey Badger drive right before halftime on a pick by senior corner John Thomas Giles-Harris in the end zone.
Meanwhile, some lower-profile programs showed that they, too, can represent New Jersey against teams comparable to themselves. A 200-yard, two-touchdown day by junior running back Mike Novak led Bergen Tech to a 46-6 win over Seaford (Del.), while fullback Charlie Bloom scored four times in Newark Academy’s 32-12 victory over Horace Mann (Bronx, N.Y.). Steinert beat Bishop McDevitt (Harrisburg, Pa.), 35-32, as well.
But even with all those victories, the Green Knights’ win stood out. Despite some of their counterparts coming up short, St. Joseph’s dominance demonstrated that Karcich’s point is still valid — that New Jersey’s best can compete with, and often beat, anybody they play.
“I think we’ve been fortunate to be one of the schools that have carried the torch,” he said. “Give Don Bosco credit, because they carried the torch on this initially and put New Jersey on the map. When they beat De La Salle a few years ago, it really made a statement to a lot of people. To some degree these out-of-state games have no question served a purpose of getting us to a higher level — the level we’re at now.”
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