RAMSEY, N.J. – Don Bosco Prep's
coaches and players settled on their
sideline Saturday night, minutes before the opening kickoff against
perennial California power Mission Viejo
, when assistant coach William
Lopez turned to the chain gang and gave them fair warning.
“Stick with us,” he advised.
the Ironmen went three-and-out on their first two drives, the no-huddle
ground attack they instituted left Mission Viejo looking battle weary
late in the first quarter. From there, the No. 1 team in the Xcellent 25
sprinted to a decisive, if somewhat uneven, 35-7 victory before 8,000
fans at Grantatell Stadium.
All five of Don Bosco Prep's scores
came on the ground game, including two apiece from first-time senior
starter John Wilkins and sophomore standout Jabrill Peppers, while the
defense picked off four passes and sacked Mission Viejo senior
quarterback Alex Bridgford six times. Senior Kyle Sakowski came up with
two interceptions, while junior Razohn Gross and senior linebacker
Michael Strizak, a Boston College commit, accounted for two sacks
“If they're not up to the task, we can beat them just on
pace alone,” senior two-way star Elijah Shumate said. “You've got to be a
really in-shape team to keep up with our pace.”
On the Garden
State's high school gridiron scene, the Ironmen's workouts are legendary
for their intensity, which have been instrumental in establishing them
as the state's standardbearer while winning five consecutive Non-Public
Group 4 championships. They looked mostly fresh on a muggy night in
North Jersey while the entire Don Bosco Prep sideline noticed the
Diablos hunched over, their hands on their hips late in the first
After an interception by senior
, Don Bosco
ran 10 times on an 11-play, 64-yard directive Wilkins (23 carries, 124
yards) capped when he plunged in from one yard out to make it 7-0 just
45.3 seconds before the first quarter ended. After the senior ripped off
a 28-yard run the second play of the drive, senior quarterback Tyler
Yankovich kept getting the Ironmen to the line quickly – sometimes
before Mission Viejo even settled into its defensive alignment.
knew that was going to happen. That was a given,” said Peppers, who
scored on runs of 6 and 7 yards before finishing with 65 yards on eight
“They looked pretty tired out there,” Don Bosco head coach Greg Toal said. “I thought the pace was good for us.”
a defensive stop, the Ironmen struck again quickly, with Peppers
carrying three straight times before concluding a five-play, 44-yard drive that
elapsed just 93 seconds with a 6-yard sprint across the goal line 6:50
By this point, Mission Viejo had already burned
through all three of its timeouts. Having lost three starters to injury,
the Diablos were weary, but found enough of a second wind to cobble
together a 13-play, 57-yard drive that brought them to the Don Bosco 25
before missing a 42-yard field goal try.
From there, Mission Viejo
never penetrated any deeper than the Ironmen until the fourth quarter,
when Bridgford (17 for 31, 216 yards) clicked with junior Max Redfield on a 5-yard scoring strike that ended an 80-yard drive, but still left
the visitors from the left coast trailing 28-7 with 9:59 left.
“The bottom line is when they got the momentum, they outplayed us,” Mission Viejo head coach Bob Johnson said.
Don Bosco limited Mission Viejo's USC-bound senior workhorse
to 47 rushes on 18 carries, with his first seven carries yielding
no yards thanks to senior defensive tackle Darius Hamilton
defensive end Alquadin Muhammad
.Although Toal only rated the
opening-night effort “a B-minus” and Peppers conceded “We can play a lot
better than this,” the Ironmen nonetheless served notice that the rest of
the nation will have a difficult time keeping pace with them.
got a lot to work on, but we're looking to get that national
championship this year,” said Shumate, a standout safety who added an
11-yard scoring run late in the fourth quarter. "We're hungry.”
Added Sakowski: “We're here to play.”