Most people outside the St. John Vianney locker room would have probably thought Lancers’ head coach Andy Carlstrom was crazy when he told his team the following at halftime of their game against Manasquan this past Friday night.
“Here’s what’s going to happen in the second half, boys,” Carlstrom said. “Our defense is going to shut them out. Our offense is going to score four touchdowns, and we’re going to win this football game.”
St. John Vianney was trailing by 23 points at the time Carlstrom spoke those words. The Lancers had trailed by 29 points in the second quarter.
However, they accomplished the impossible. They blanked Manasquan in the second half and scored 27 points to record an improbable 39-35 victory as junior quarterback Billy DeMato hit senior wide receiver Nick Anzevino with a 14-yard TD pass with 19 seconds remaining. It was DeMato’s sixth TD pass of the game.
It is easy for a coach to tell his team it can come back in a game because part of a coach’s job is to sell his team on its abilities and that no game is over until there is no more time remaining.
But, this was Manasquan, St. John Vianney was playing. The Warriors might be 1-3, but they have probably never lost a game they led by four touchdowns in their proud history.
“You never let your team see you sweat, but to say, I wasn’t nervous would be a lie,” Carlstrom said. “Based on what they had done to us in the first half, I had concerns defensively, that we weren’t going to be able to do the job.
“But, I believe in my coordinator, John Bird, and for me with the style of offense we run and the athletes we have, we can put up points pretty quick. I knew if the defense could get the job done, I thought we could score on them.”
The defense’s biggest stand probably came after DeMato, who was 25-for-52 for 316 yards, was intercepted by Connor Grogan in the end zone with 2:34 remaining. It was DeMato’s third INT of the night.
St.. John Vianney had two timeouts remaining. A Manasquan first down would have ended the game.
Carlstrom said the Warriors gained 8 yards’ on first down. However, the Lancers came up with a tackle for a loss on second down and an incomplete pass on third down, resulted in Manasquan having to punt.
“We felt with what we do on offense and how often we practice the no-huddle and the two-minute drill, we felt we could get another chance to get down there,” Carlstrom said.
The Lancers were also able to accomplish their comeback even though standout wide receiver and NCAA Division I-A recruit Ishmael Hyman did not play because of a bruised knee . Also, receiver Steve Rosso broke his collarbone early in the game.
However, senior receiver Steve Callari had nine receptions for 153 yards and three TDs, Junior receiver Julanee Prince had seven receptions for 99 yards and a TD and Anzevino had seven receptions for 58 yards and two TDs.
The win was not only remarkable. It might also have been a season-saver for a St. John Vianney team that just finished a three-week stretch where it played Rumson-Fair Haven, ranked No. 7 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10 Poll, No. 1 Red Bank Catholic and Manasquan. The Lancers now have a bye before their Oct. 12 game with 4-0 Colts Neck. They also must still play surprising 3-1 Holmdel before the cutoff date for the playoffs.
“I’m sitting there on the sidelines when it’s 35-6 thinking, ‘Oh, man, we might be 1-3 now going into the bye week, and the kids might start questioning themselves,’ ” Carlstrom said. “Then, to come back like this, and the way our kids left the field with such a adrenaline rush, it was a big win for our program and probably the biggest comeback in SJV history.”
A LOOK AT THE DIVSIONAL RACES
CLASS A NORTH: Manalapan (4-0, 3-0), which has won 16 straight divisional games, 15 in Class A North, dating back to a 35-6 over Freehold Township on Oct. 30, 2009, put itself on the inside track for a third straight divisional title, with its 35-31 win over Middletown South this past Friday night. It would appear an Oct. 20 game at Colts Neck (4-0, 2-0) is Manalapan’s toughest remaining divisional game.
Colts Neck also hosts Middletown South (2-1, 1-1) on Nov. 3.
CLASS A CENTRAL: Red Bank Catholic (4-0, 3-0) and Rumson-Fair Haven (4-0, 3-0) meet on Nov. 21 at Rumson. Rumson still has to play at Manasquan (1-3, 1-2) on Nov. 3. Red Bank Catholic has a game at Holmdel (3-1, 1-1) on Oct. 12.
CLASS A SOUTH: Four teams, Brick Memorial (4-0, 3-0), ranked No. 6 in the APP Top 10, No. 8 Lacey (4-0, 3-0), No. 9 Toms River North (3-1, 2-1) and Southern (3-1, 2-1) all have a chance to at least claim a share of the championship.
There are plenty of key games left amongst the four main contenders,. Brick Memorial, which hosts No. 2 Neptune on Friday night in an intriguing non-divisional game, is at Toms River North on Oct. 12, hosts Southern on Oct. 19 and Lacey on Nov. 2. Lacey is at Southern on Oct. 13.
CLASS B NORTH: Neptune (4-0, 3-0), which has defeated No. 5 Long Branch (3-1, 1-1) and No. 10 Matawan (3-1, 2-1) the last two weeks, has the inside track to finish first overall in a division for the first time since 1999.
Long Branch hosts Matawan on Oct. 26.
CLASS B CENTRAL: There is still a lot to be decided in this division.
Point Beach (4-0, 1-0), which last won a division championship in 1997 and is off to its best start since 1995, hosts defending divisional champion Asbury Park (2-1, 1-1) Friday night. The Garnet Gulls host Keansburg (3-1, 1-0) on Oct. 12, are at Keyport (3-1, 0-1) on Oct. 27 and host Shore (3-1, 1-0) on Thanksgiving Day.
Shore (3-1, 1-0), which has won its last two games by a combined 127-19, has already defeated Asbury Park, and hosts Keansburg on Oct. 26, is at Keyport on Nov. 3.
Asbury Park is at Keansburg on Nov. 3 and Keansburg, off to its best start since 2007, hosts Keyport on Oct. 20.
CLASS B SOUTH: This division is totally up for grabs. Point Boro (3-1, 2-0) and Monsignor Donovan (2-1, 2-0), which has not won a divisional title since 1993, meet Friday night at Monsignor Donovan.
Point Boro also hosts Barnegat (2-2, 2-1) on Oct. 19, Jackson Liberty (3-1, 2-1) on Oct. 26 and is at Lakewood (3-1, 2-1) on Nov. 3. Lakewood is off to its best start since it started 5-0 in 2002. Monsignor Donovan hosts Jackson Liberty on Nov. 2. Barnegat hosts Lakewood on Oct. 26 and Jackson Liberty hosts Lakewood on Oct. 12.
Wall’s 1982 11-0 NJSIAA Central Group III championship team, coached by the late, legendary John Amabile, will be honored Friday night at halftime of the Crimson Knights’ home game against Brick.
That team, led by running backs Art Petracco and Greg Panasuk, quarterback/placekicker Bob Amabile and two-way lineman Fred Sprengel, finished ranked Co-No. 1 in the Shore with Brick. Wall recorded seven shutouts and outscored its opposition, 379-33, that year.
Also, Wall’s 2002 Central Group III championship team, coached by former head coach Chris Barnes, will also be honored at halftime of Friday night’s game.
Central will induct its legendary 1971 team, that went 9-0, and was coached by the late Joe Boyd, into its Hall of Fame at halftime of its Oct.. 12 game with Barnegat.
Red Bank defensive end Garrett Sickels will officially be invited to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Friday morning during a ceremony at Red Bank’s gymnasium. The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is Jan. 5 at 1 p.m. at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Marlboro (2-2), which defeated Freehold Township Saturday, has won two divisional games for the first time since 1999, when it went 4-2 in Class A North and finished 6-4 overall and qualified for the NJSIAA playoffs. That is the last time Marlboro has qualified for the playoffs.