A FITTING FINALE

A FITTING FINALE

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A FITTING FINALE

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SOMERVILLE

In his final home game in his 47th season at the helm of the Parochial High School in Somerville, Immaculata head coach Pierce Frauenheim left Brooks Field Friday night after yet another vintage Spartans effort.

In a contest dominated from whistle to whistle by top-seeded Immaculata, senior quarterback Antonio Natale led an efficient offense with 7 of 12 passing for 101 yards and three scoring strikes to three separate players as the Spartans rolled past fifth-seeded Montclair Kimberley 49-7 in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group II semifinals.

Immaculata, seeking its fifth state championship and first since 2006, will face second-seeded Holy Spirit in next weekend’s final.

Frauenheim was business as usual following the resounding victory, not ready for any nostalgia.

“This was a total team victory – offense, defense, and special teams,” Frauenheim said. “Everything clicked. You’re afraid of a possible let down and your team not focusing and that’s when mistakes happen, but that wasn’t the case tonight.”

The offense showed to be firing on all cylinders from the get-go.

After forcing the Cougars (5-6) three-and-out to begin the game, Immaculata embarked on a six-play, 50-yard scoring drive in just 2:08.

Senior wideout Trevor Socarras hauled in a 24-yard reception from the Bridgewater native Natale to get the drive started. Five plays later, junior tailback Connor Vanderbeek scooted in from five yards for a score to put the hosts on the board.

“We came in mentally focused,” Natale said of the offense. “We knew they (MKA) were going to be hard hitters. We just found open seams and open running lanes and exploited them.”

The Spartans’ exploitation of MKA’s defense was even more efficient the second time they possessed the ball.

After the defense, led by senior defensive end Tashawn Bower (two sacks), basically held MKA in neutral on its second series, the offense needed just five plays and 51 yards to score.

In a nice mix of run and pass, the drive ended in a 29-yard touchdown pass from Natale to senior wideout Terrence Hunter. A Matt Kassebaum kick made the score 14-0 with 1:46 left in the first quarter.

Midway through the second quarter, Immaculata received tremendous field position after a 5-yard punt by MKA’s Rob Pannullo.

After taking over at the Cougars 20, Natale hit junior tight end Joe Vitiello for 13 yards and then found junior wideout Chandler Vanderbeek in the right flat for a seven-yard touchdown to make it a three-score game with still seven minutes to play before halftime.

Immaculata would find the end zone once more before the intermission, this time its easiest trip of the night.

After Pannullo’s pooch punt was partially blocked and returned down to MKA’s 15 by Spartans senior defensive tackle Jacob Sniscac, Natale connected again with Socarras for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 3:05 showing before the half to bust the game open.

The Spartans’ starters would make one final appearance of the game on the opening drive of the second half.

Again with a mix of run and pass, Immaculata drove 52 yards in six plays and Connor Vanderbeek was the touchdown beneficiary again. He ran in a score from 18 yards out to all but seal the Spartans trip to the state final.

“That’s what we’ve been wanting to do all season. We want to send him (Frauenheim) home with a ring on his finger,” Natale said. “It would be a nice little gift for him.”

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