Vinny Grasso is usually the most exciting player to watch in Monsignor Donovan games.
On Friday night he was also the most consistent player and that’s what helped the Griffins the most in escaping with a 28-25 victory over Jackson Liberty.
Grasso ran for two long touchdowns, one in each half. The 5-foot-8, 160-pound senior quarterback racked up a total of 166 rushing yards and completed three passes. At times he lined up as a slot receiver. As a defensive back he was the Griffins’ leading tackler. He punted five times and faked a punt when he instead ran for a first down.
When Jackson Liberty went on a 22-8 rally in the second half, Grasso offered the most resistance, and his 48-yard scoring run on the last play of third quarter spoiled the comeback bid in the Shore Conference Class B South game.
Grasso and the rest of the Monsignor Donovan (4-4, 4-2) defense spent a punishing 11 minutes on the field in the third quarter as the host Lions (3-5, 3-4) chipped away at what had been a 20-3 halftime deficit.
“I found some extra energy,” Grasso said.
The touchdown came immediately after Jackson Liberty’s Brendan Busacca had scored on a one-yard run to cut the lead to 20-17.
“Vinny is special. He’s a very mature competitor. You could see that throughout the game,” said Donovan coach Dan Duddy. “As a college football prospect he’s getting some nice D2 looks as a slot receiver in high-level offenses. He’s going to be an asset to the program he joins.”
Monsignor Donovan yielded 83 points in losing its last two games against quality offenses run by Central and Rumson-Fair Haven. There was very little give in the first half against Jackson Liberty, which had a first drive that pushed to the 8-yard line but ended up in a settling for a 30-yard-field goal by Braden Yorke.
But Jackson Liberty’s next possession was terminated early by Zack Skesavage’s interception, and the Griffins got to quarterback John Veneziano multiple times later in the quarter with Brett Hogancamp and Tre-von Bass among the sackers.
Grasso at quarterback opened the game’s scoring with a 43-yard option read and Joey Fields scored on a two-yard run to push Monsignor Donovan’s lead to 14-3 at the close of the first quarter. Skesavage’s interception was converted immediately on a 77-yard run by David Calderon, making the score 20-3 a minute into the second quarter.
But Jackson Liberty saved its best for the second half. Veneziano, who was 13 of 28 for 173 yards but was intercepted twice, threw a pair of 13-yard touchdown passes to Mike Stout and Matt Pinto. The Pinto touchdown came with 3:29 left, and Jackson Liberty got the ball back one more time, only to see Joey Fields secure the victory for Monsignor Donovan with an interception.