Morris Catholic football defeat highlights holes in defense

Morris Catholic football defeat highlights holes in defense

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Morris Catholic football defeat highlights holes in defense

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DENVILLE

Morris Catholic ran the ball effectively out of its triple option set against Whippany Park yesterday. Now if the Crusaders could only tackle and play more efficiently when they don’t have the ball.

Several Morris Catholic’s defensive mishaps and a poor snap took the starch out of what was a solid offensive performance that was certainly good enough to win on another day.

But the mistakes came back to bite the Crusaders in a 35-29 home defeat against Whippany Park.

Morris Catholic ran the ball 44 times for 326 yards. Quarterback Joe Rosenski was 16 for 112 running. Fullback Steve Lahoe was 12 for 87 and two touchdowns. Those are all numbers that would win many football games.

But Morris Catholic’s defense couldn’t stop Whippany Park when it had to.

“We did run the ball well,” coach Greg Lusardi said after the game. “I was happy with the way our running backs blocked and with the way our offensive blocked. We executed well. Joe Rosenski made the proper reads.

“But there were a lot of negatives.”

The first negative came early in the game and resulted in a Whippany Park touchdown. A poor punt snap got away from punter John Scalera and Whippany Park’s Mateo Soto came up with the ball in the end zone. Dante Stefanelli’s uncontested two-point conversion run made it 8-0.

Just like that, Morris Catholic trailed 8-0 — and the Wildcats never even ran a play.

Last week, a botched punt snap resulted in a Boonton touchdown in a 14-0 Crusaders season-opening defeat.

The Crusaders rebounded from the early mistake against Whippany Park and took a 10-8 lead in the second quarter after Diego Diaz booted a 23-yard field goal and Steve Lahoe took a pitch from Rosenski for a 5-yard touchdown run.

But on Whippany Park’s next possession, the Crusaders were victimized by the short passing game and then by the bruising, physical style of running back Mike Poulter, who broke what seemed to be a month’s worth of tackles on the way to a 23-yard touchdown run.

“Our tackling,” Lusardi said, “was very poor.”

Morris Catholic responded by going right down the field and scoring when Rosenski engineered a 57-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 27-yard score by Shawn Davis (5 for 67 rushing) with 43 seconds left before halftime.

But, once again, the Crusaders couldn’t hold the lead. Stefanelli lofted a 61-yard bomb to Nick Cetrulo, who got behind his defender for yet another how-did-that-happen Whippany Park touchdown with just 36 seconds left in the first half.

Early in the third quarter, Poulter scored the backbreaker when he returned a 50-yard interception for a touchdown, giving Whippany Park a 28-17 third-quarter lead that seemed to take a lot of the starch out of the Crusaders.

“We’re not mentally as strong as I’d like,” Lusardi said. “When adversity hits, we just need to re-group better.”

Morris Catholic did bounce back somewhat — but only after allowing another Whippany Park score, this time from Dan Karovic to make it 35-17.

Lahoe went in from 40 yards out with 2:14 left in the game. After Whippany Park went three-and-out, Rosenski brought his team down the field and completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Wayne Patterson to make it 35-29, but the Wildcats recovered the ensuing extra point with 19 seconds left and Whippany Park took a knee to end the game.

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