Mater Dei gets off to a strong start

Mater Dei gets off to a strong start


Mater Dei gets off to a strong start



The opening kickoff of the new season fell from the sky and bounced straight into the waiting hands of Tyson White, who proceeded to break up the middle before veering right to outrace his Keansburg pursuers. Eight-five yards later, White had a touchdown and Mater Dei had an early lead, along with a hunch that, perhaps, this season, that kickoff would be the first of many bounces to go their way.

White’s return sent the Seraphs off to a 34-14 Class B Central victory over Keansburg, and served as the starting line for an impressive season-opening performance.

“It’s a been a long time since we returned a kickoff for a touchdown,” Mater Dei coach Steve Sciarappa said. “I couldn’t tell you when the last time was. In fact, it’s been a long time since we won our first game.”

Mater Dei compiled 417 yards of total offense, while scoring the game’s first five touchdowns. Senior Derek Lopez led the attack with 141 yards on eight carries. Lopez also added two touchdowns and a two-point conversion run.

“We want to stay as balanced as we can,” Sciarappa said. “We’re fortunate to have some talented young guys. When we play as a team, we can be tough to defend.”

The Seraphs demonstrated more than quick-strike potential on their first possession of the second quarter, moving 80 yards in 10 plays to take a 14-0 lead with 5:51 to play before halftime. Running back Sam Miles ran in from 10 yards out for the score, and Miles added the two-point conversion run. A penalty for leading with the helmet on fourth-and-11 negated a Keansburg sack of quarterback Christian Palmer and kept the drive alive.

Miles’ 11-yard touchdown run on Mater Dei’s next possession built the lead to 20-0 with 3:28 left in the half. A 24-yard run by Palmer and a 26-yard run by White set up the score, which closed a three-play, 39-yard drive that started after White recovered a Titan fumble.

“We spent a lot of time practicing situations,” Sciarappa said. “For instance, we might spend 30 minutes just working on third downs. We want to be able to finish.”

Meanwhile, the Mater Dei defense limited Keansburg to 92 yards in the first half, forcing three turnovers and bottling up Keansburg’s multi-dimensional quarterback Kason Preston.

“Philosophically, we wanted to keep everyone in front of us,” Sciarappa said. “Keansburg is a tough team, and (Preston) is a talented player who can beat you in a lot of ways.”

Lopez scored his first touchdown on a five-yard run with 3:59 left in the third quarter, and his ensuing conversion run gave Mater Dei a 28-0 lead. The senior added a 78-yard gallop to the one with a minute to play in the third, before getting in the end zone on the next play.

Preston, who had earlier limped off with a knee injury, returned the score Keansburg’s first touchdown with 6:30 left on an 11-yard run. Arkeyel Brown’s five-yard for the Titans with two seconds provided the game’s final touchdown.

“A lot of our team lives more than 30 minutes (from school),” Sciarappa said. “We are truly a regional team. But we had great attendance over the summer and these guys come to practice and work, so it’s good to see them have the success that they did today.

“Having said that, we have a long way to go.”


More USA TODAY High School Sports