Red Bank Catholic probably found out more about itself in the first quarter on Friday against Immaculata than it did in its first eight games combined.
Two plays into the game, the Caseys were faced with their first deficit of the season.
Immaculata had jolted everyone at Count Basie Field. There was first a 60-yard kickoff return by Chandler Vanderbeek to the Caseys 38 — and then a 38-yard I’Zjaier Sanders touchdown pass to Ibn Bailey on a flea-flicker.
“It was definitely an eye-opener. It just showed how badly (Immaculata) wanted to win,” said Red Bank Catholic senior defensive end/tight end Shawn McCord.
The Caseys response: Forty two straight points, total domination on both sides of the line of scrimmage. It all added up to a resounding 42-14 victory and a berth into the NJSIAA Non-Public Group III semifinals a week from today against St. Joseph (Montvale). St. Joseph (Montvale) is the consensus No. 1 ranked team in the state and defeated Red Bank Catholic, 42-7, last year in the Non-Public Group III semifinals.
“I think our team handled (being behind) very well,” said McCord, who was outstanding on defense. I think our team is very confident in offense. We knew we’d get back into it.”
“I was pleased with the way our kids responded,” Red Bank Catholic coach Jim Portela said .
It did not take the Caseys (9-0), who won a state quarterfinal for the third consecutive season, long to respond. They zipped 67 yards in six plays and tied the game on a 27-yard Pat Toomey to Connor Smith touchdown pass.
“I think our kids had it in their mind they were going to play hard tonight, and when you have an offensive line we have, that helps a lot. That helps settle things down,” Portela said. “We may not have blown through them. We ran three plays and picked up first down, and all of the sudden the chains moved and we’re doing our thing. We’re in the flow of the game.”
Red Bank Catholic’s dominance of the line of scrimmage became quickly evident.
On Immaculata’s next offensive series, McCord sacked Sanders for a 12-yard loss on second down. The Spartans (6-4) eventually punted.
It then took Red Bank Catholic three plays to score on its next series. Senior tailback Larry Redaelli ripped off an 17-yard run on the second play of the series and then blasted 18 yards for the touchdown on the next play to put the Caseys ahead to stay at 14-7 with 4:52 left in the first half.
“We were all prepared to step it up another notch,” said Readelli, who rushed for 164 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. “We just don’t get frustrated.”
“We scrimmaged them. We knew how good they were. It wasn’t a shock to us. We knew they were a special team,” Immaculata coach John Hack said.
It took Red Bank Catholic just five plays to strike on its next series. One play after a personal foul penalty wiped out a Redaelli 58-yard touchdown run, junior tailback Mike Cordova took a stretch play to the left and raced 67 yards for a touchdown that made it 21-7 with 10:52 left in the first half.
Then, any chance Immaculata had of getting back into the game evaporated 12 seconds into the second half when sophomore Dylan Murphy returned the second half kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown.
“Some people may have been questioning if we can string two strong halves together,” Portela said. “Dylan Murphy gave us a great lift. It really set the tempo for the second half.”
Redaelli capped a 51-yard, 11-play drive — a drive in which he rushed nine times for 40 yards — with a 2-yard touchdown run to make it 35-7 with 2:37 left in the third quarter.
Frank Olmo’s 1-yard touchdown made it 42-7 with 8:59 remaining.