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Defense sparks Don Bosco Prep 10-8 win over St. Joseph (Montvale) in Non-Public Group 4 Playoff Semifinals

Squaring off for the second time this season and 56th overall on Saturday afternoon at Robert Joseph Dinallo Stadium, the Don Bosco Prep Ironmen (7-4) and St. Joseph (Montvale) Green Knights (7-4) knew that there would be a lot more riding on the line this time around with an opportunity to advance to the Non-Public Group 4 championship game at Met Life Stadium. Back on October 20, Don Bosco dominated in winning 35-14.

Points would be at a premium in this contest as both offenses struggled to move the ball in the first half combining for nine total punts. However, it would be one play that changed the complexion of the game in the second quarter. With St. Joe’s quarterback Michael Alaimo completing a pass to a wide receiver, Ironmen safety Michael Courtney stepped up and jarred the ball loose. That is where cornerback Arsheen Jiles made the highlight reel play by scooping up the ball and rumbling down the sidelines for the 39-yard touchdown with less than 10 minutes remaining.

Giles on the score, “I saw the ball rolling around and said I have to and got to score and what I did. We knew that coming in Kyle (Monangai) might not be playing so the offense wouldn’t be good as it is so we knew on defense if we could shut them out and we said the game was over.”

The Don Bosco defense stuffed the run holding Green Knights rushing leader Audric Estime to 37 yards rushing while Alaimo completed 6 of 7 passes for 31 yards and three yards on the ground. In the third quarter St. Joe’s managed to catch a break with the Ironmen pinned inside their one-yard line, Don Bosco’s Emmanuel Laracuente unable to get back to the line of scrimmage and upon video review confirmed a safety with five minutes left.

Getting the ball back at their own 42-yard line, the Green Knights offense found some rhythm as Alaimo directed a nine-play drive that chewed up almost six minutes of the clock including gaining two yards on fourth and one at the Ironmen 49 but the Don Bosco defense dropping Alaimo for a five-yard loss this forcing another punt.

Held to a single rushing yard through three quarters of play, Ironmen senior running back Jalen Berger had the biggest run of the day, a 42-yarder that set the Don Bosco up at the St. Joe’s 20. With the drive stalling out at the seven-yard line, placekicker Justin Frey booted home a 25-yard field goal with six and half minutes left.

“It had an old school feel to it, a real physical backyard brawl to it and can’t say enough about our special teams’ and defense to keep us in the game,” said Don Bosco Prep Head Coach Dan Sabella. “Offensively we’re not feeling good about ourselves but it’s all about figuring it out and getting it done in the end and why it’s the truest team game there is.”

Just when it appeared the Ironmen had the game in the bag, the Green Knights stormed back. With the ball under four minutes on the clock, Alaimo found success through the air completing passes of 26 yards to wide receivers Nuri Robinson and nine yards to Justin Mucci. Faced with a fourth and six at the Don Bosco 49, Alaimo scrambled out of the pocket and launched a pass down the field that wide receiver Albert Serrano hauled in and sprinted into the end zone with 1:16 left.

Going for the two-point conversion, Audric Estime got the ball on the handoff but the Ironmen defense stacked the box and stopped Estime short of the end zone and setting off a wild celebration on the Don Bosco sidelines. After recovering the onside kick and a couple of knee downs, the Ironmen extended their winning streak to five games while returning to the Non-Public Group 4 championship game for the first time since 2015 where they will meet St. Peter’s Prep (10-1) on November 30 at MetLife Stadium with kickoff set for 7:00 p.m. This marked the fourth lowest combined score and game decided by three points or less between Don Bosco and St. Joe’s. Estime finished with 65 rushing yards on 16 carries while Alaimo completed 12 of 15 passes for 150 yards while gaining 26 yards on the ground.

“To be able to come up here and beat these guys twice on this field is not easy and a really difficult thing to do and our guys doing it this year speaks volumes,” Sabella said. “We have another week of football left, we have kids who are motivated, love each other and want to see this all the way to the end.”

Jiles on the victory, “It means a lot to us seniors, we have not been on the winning side and to go to MetLife Stadium is a blessing. We got knocked out of the playoffs in the first round our sophomore year, second run our junior year and this year we knew that we had to finish it and only option. Coach Sabella is a great leader and has done a great job, helped us bond and has us working harder with lifting and practicing.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Sunil is the Rockland Boulders Beat Writer for DoubleGSports.com and also covers North Jersey High School Sports
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