St. John Vianney quarterback Billy DeMato had been playing catch-up all game long and had a chance to steal the victory with 2:34 remaining. But his pass into the end zone was intercepted by Manasquan’s Connor Grogan to end the threat and keep the Warriors in the lead at 35-32.
But the Lancers’ defense gave DeMato another chance. This time, he delivered with a 14-yard touchdown pass in the back corner of the end zone to receiver Nick Anzevino with 19 seconds left to complete an improbable comeback from a 35-6 first-half deficit for a 39-35 St. John Vianney victory on a night the team was without injured star receiver Ishmael Hyman.
“Our defense was fantasic in the second half,” DeMato said. “They kept us in the game and my line did a great job giving me time to find open receivers. We had a lot of guys step up to fill Ishmael’s shoes.”
It looked like it would be an easy win for Manasquan as they raced out to a 22-0 first-quarter lead. The Warriors extended the lead to 35-6 on a 31-yard run by Joe Murphy with just a few minutes left in the half.
The Lancers put together a solid drive before the half and had a first down at the Manasquan 18 with just under a minute to go. DeMato threw down the middle to a wide-open Steve Callari to make it 35-12. But the score gave Vianney momentum going into the break.
“I told our players that our defense would shut them down in the second half and that we would score touchdowns,” Vianney coach Andy Carlstrom said. “They believed and then went out and did a terrific job.”
While the Lancers’ defense was shutting down Manasquan’s offense, DeMato kept the pressure on the Warriors’ defense. He threw his third touchdown pass of the game in the third quarter to Julanee Prince for 21 yards to make it 35-19 as the game went to the fourth quarter.
DeMato threw two more touchdowns in the first 6 minutes of the fourth, one to Callari and another to Anzevino to set up the late-game heroics.
“Perfect throw from my quarterback,” said Anzevino of his game-winning catch. “I was on a wheel pattern, it was right there and I got my feet down inbounds. It was a great feeling when my teammates came running out to celebrate!”