On a day when its usually potent rushing attack was slowed, the St. Joseph High School football team’s defense set up the offense.
The Falcons twice recovered fumbles inside Bishop Ahr territory and capitalized on the short field both times, scoring key touchdowns in Saturday’s 20-10 victory over their border rivals to remain undefeated and atop the Greater Middlesex Conference White Division.
Unlike last year’s game, contested on a Friday night at Bishop Ahr’s Brietski Field, the configuration of “The Oval” at St. Joseph, which has limited seating, detracted from the electric atmosphere of the previous meeting.
An afternoon game which kicked off shortly after many upperclassmen from both schools had taken college-entrance exams contributed to the student sections’ decreased energy level.
The play on the field, however, lived up to its billing as the outcome wasn’t decided for the second consecutive year until less than two minutes remained.
Sophomore quarterback Breein Tyree, a cousin of former Giants Super Bowl XLII hero David Tyree and the younger brother of current Rutgers University player Jevon Tyree, put the game out of reach, plunging in from the 1 on a fourth-and-goal with 1:30 left.
“I just said to the offensive line, ‘Tighten your splits and just get me in there. I promise I’m going to work as hard as I can to get into the end zone.’ And they did it,” Tyree said. “They got me in there. All I had to do was take two steps and fall on the ground.”
Defensive lineman Nick Krimin set up Tyree’s victory-clinching touchdown with a fumble recovery at the Bishop Ahr 20-yard line. St. Joseph had lost a fumble on the previous play, which thwarted the Falcons’ only sustained drive of the game.
“Defense wins games,” Tyree said. “The offense came out sluggish. We really did think that we were going to come out here and really pound the ball. We couldn’t move the ball and the defense kept giving us opportunities to move the ball down the field and we capitalized on the plays.”
Tyree and senior tailback Matt Olivo had touchdown runs of 33 and 57 yards, respectively, on consecutive touches midway through the second quarter to help St. Joseph erase a 7-0 deficit.
Bishop Ahr, operating a newly installed triple option, the brainchild of assistant coach Marcus Borden, who ran the offense as East Brunswick’s head coach the past 30 years, owned a 234-221 advantage in yards from scrimmage.
The Falcons (4-0) were limited to three first downs over the first three quarters as Bishop Ahr (1-3), which received the game’s opening kickoff and recovered an onside kick to start the second half, ate up the clock with its methodical option.
“We had a feeling we may have to adjust to the speed of the option and what we are seeing because it’s not like the old days where you see it four or five times a year,” St. Joseph head coach Casey Ransone said. “I think we did a good job adjusting to it as the game went on.”
St. Joseph’s makeshift defense — already without middle linebacker Mike Allen (knee), the Falcons lost outside linebacker Andrew Cunningham (hand) to injury early in the game — bent but did not break.
The Falcons yielded just one big play — David Holder’s 54-yard touchdown pass to Mike Viggiano — on which Bishop Ahr took a 7-0 lead with 8:39 left in the second quarter.
St. Joseph went three-and-out on the ensuing series but Joseph Papa recovered a muffed punt at the Bishop Ahr 33. On the next play from scrimmage, Olivo broke five tackles for a clutch touchdown run that knotted the score with 6:40 remaining in the half.
Tyree scored on a 57-yard touchdown run the next time St. Joseph touched the ball for a 13-7 lead with 4:01 left in the first half.
Bishop Ahr closed to 13-10 on Justin Abd’s 24-yard field goal with 11:05 remaining in the game. The Trojans had to settle for those three points because a holding penalty nullified an apparent 11-yard touchdown run two plays prior.
The Trojans did a nice job of stuffing the run. The absence of Cunningham was more prevalent on offense, where as the fullback he serves as the lead blocker out of the I formation for Olivo, the conference’s leading rusher.
Olivo still finished with 133 rushing yards on 20 carries, impressive for most backs, but pedestrian for one who averages nearly 200 yards per game.
Bishop Ahr was penalized nine times for 65 yards, with seven flags being thrown their way in the first half, the result apparently of adjusting to a new offensive system.
|Bishop Ahr (1-3)||0||7||0||3||—||10|
|St. Joseph (4-0)||0||13||0||7||—||20|
BA – Viggiano 54 pass from Holder (Abd kick)
SJ – Olivo 33 run (Cintron kick)
SJ – Tyree 57 run (kick failed)
BA – Abd 24 FG
SJ – Tyree 1 run (Cintron kick)
Passing: BA – Holder 3-6-0-65; SJ – Tyree 1-4-3. Receiving: BA – Howard 1-minus 2, Greene 1-12, Viggiano 1-54. Rushing: BA – Holder 20-92, Perez 6-9, Neal 9-36, Thomas 2-9, Howard 2-23; SJ – Olivo 20-133, Tyree 11-60, Townes 4-19.