Green Wave fall to high-powered Paramus Catholic

Green Wave fall to high-powered Paramus Catholic

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Green Wave fall to high-powered Paramus Catholic

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MORRIS TOWNSHIP

You could tell it was a big football game at Delbarton by the amount of traffic there was pre-game on Route 124. The line of cars started almost at the Green in Morristown and proceeded like a funeral procession right to the Abbey, one by one, for almost a half hour.

The curiosity seekers were out to see the Green Wave’s opponent, namely Paramus Catholic, the defending NJSIAA Non-Public Group IV state champion, currently ranked No. 2 in the entire state and among the top 20 teams in the entire nation.

Not to mention that the Paladins have a superstar in senior Jabrill Peppers, rated by some scouting services as the best all-around player in the country.

None of that fazed the Green Wave. It was their season opener and they were in it to win it.

“We came in here expecting to win,” senior running back Robbie Arancio said.

“They’re a good team, no question,” said senior safety Matt Oplinger. “But we were here to win.”

The Green Wave did their best. They controlled the line of scrimmage and the ball for most of the first half. They limited the high-powered Paladins to just six plays from scrimmage in the first quarter and actually took a 3-0 lead in the early stages of the second period.

However, right after Jonathan Schaible’s 30-yard field goal that gave Delbarton the lead with 9:32 left in the first half, Peppers decided to make his presence felt.

Peppers lined up in a shotgun formation behind the center, a modified wildcat formation, took the snap and bolted right through the middle of the Delbarton defense untouched. Peppers, already committed to Michigan, had an 80-yard touchdown jaunt and just like that, the shocked Green Wave never recovered.

Delbarton managed to hang tough with the nationally-ranked powerhouse, but it wasn’t enough, as Peppers and his teammates came away with a 30-18 victory before a crowd of more than 2,000 fans, enjoying the late summer afternoon that definitely felt like fall.

After Peppers’ sprint gave the Paladins the lead for good, they cushioned the lead with a stunning 74-yard touchdown pass from Steve Shanley to Najee Clayton with just eight seconds before halftime, making the score 14-3. That touchdown was an emotional killer for the Green Wave, who looked like they would go into the break only down four points.

“They hit that big pass and that was a little bit of a crusher for us,” Delbarton head coach Brian Bowers said. “They hit a couple of big plays on us in the first half and that was the difference.”

“We knew that they were a big play team,” Oplinger said. “That’s the type of team they are. We hung around and then they made those plays.”

The Paladins (2-0) then scored on their first possession of the second half, with Shanley hitting Clayton again, this time for 14 yards, pushing the lead to 21-3 with 7:19 left in the third. Things looked worse for the Green Wave, when Drew Singleton intercepted a Guiseppe Bevacqua pass at the Delbarton 30-yard line.

However, Oplinger made a brilliant defensive play on Peppers, reaching in and stripping the ball away from Peppers, then motored 82 yards for a touchdown.

“It was kind of bobbling, but I just ripped it out,” Oplinger said. “It never touched the ground. I saw a lot of green in front of me and kept going.”

Oplinger moved back and forth across the field to get the touchdown, aided by some excellent blocks from his teammates.

“That was on them,” Oplinger said. “I was able to go because of their blocks.”

Oplinger’s play sliced the lead to 21-10 with 1:19 left in the third and gave Delbarton some hope. The excitement grew when the Green Wave forced the Paladins to go three-and-out on the ensuing possession, giving the Green Wave excellent field position.

But on the first play after the punt, Peppers picked off Bevacqua at the PC 40-yard line. Seven plays later, Shanley hit Peppers with a 5-yard touchdown, pushing the lead to 28-10.

However, there was still life in the Green Wave. Freshman Andrew Papatonis exploded with the kickoff after Peppers’ touchdown and bolted for a 95-yard return for a touchdown. Arancio added the two-point conversion run and the Green Wave sliced the lead to 28-18 with 8:32 left.

But the Paladins’ defense stiffened, sacking Bevacqua on three straight plays, the third for a safety with 4:06 remaining, eliminating all thoughts of an upset with it.

The Green Wave did control the clock, but didn’t muster much offensively, collecting just 62 yards rushing on 21 attempts and getting just 42 yards passing.

On the other side, Peppers had 113 yards rushing on nine carries and Keyon Washington had 94 yards on 15 carries. Shanley was 9-of-14 passing for 149 yards.

After the game, the Green Wave didn’t like what the scoreboard read, but they certainly embraced their effort.

“We executed well early and we never gave up,” said Arancio, who had 48 yards on 16 carries. “We’re disappointed with the result, but we have a lot to build on. I think it showed we can compete with anyone.”

“It’s a tough one to swallow,” Oplinger said. “We were hanging in there and hanging in there, but hanging in there doesn’t give us wins. Hanging in there is not something we want to do. Losing is never good.”

Still Bowers was upbeat after the game.

“We’re going to get better playing a team like this,” Bowers said. “I’m disappointed in the result, but not the effort. We played the best high school player in the country and we contained him pretty good, except for that big run. Our kids played unbelievably hard. I’m proud of their effort. It bodes well for the future.”

And the future for the Green Wave does not include any nationally ranked powerhouses on the remainder of the regular season schedule.

Paramus Catholic (2-0) 0-14-7-9–30

Delbarton (0-1) 0-3-7-8–18

D-Jonathan Schaible 30 FG

PC-Jabrill Peppers 80 run (Dan Conte kick)

PC-Najee Clayton 74 pass from Steve Shanley (Dan Conte kick)

PC-Najee Clayton 14 pass from Steve Shanley (Dan Conte kick)

D-Matt Oplinger 82 fumble return (Jonathan Schaible kick)

PC-Jabrill Peppers 5 pass from Steve Shanley (Dan Conte kick)

D-Andrew Papatonis 95 kickoff return (Robbie Arancio run)

PC-Safety, Bevacqua sacked in end zone

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