EAST RUTHERFORD— The Bergen Catholic players knelt in the visitor’s locker room as head coach Nunzio Campanile addressed his squad.
He told them how proud he was of them. He admitted that top-seeded Don Bosco was a more talented team -- but he was fine with that.
“I really, really wish the result was different,” Campanile said after the Crusader’s
42-14 loss to the Ironmen in the Non Public Group 4 state championship at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 2.
“We all do. But, in the end, we put so much into this that it’s not just about that. We really played hard; we just got beat.”
The coach shifted the focus from what happened on the field to some things he wanted to express to his squad.
“The things that I want you to know,” Campanile said, “is that I love you; that I’m so proud of you; I’m so proud to be your coach.
“It breaks my heart that we didn’t get to where we wanted to get to, but in the end, it doesn’t diminish anything that we did.”
Turnovers and special teams issues plagued the Crusaders. Junior quarterback Jonathan Germano threw five interceptions, and BC muffed one punt attempt, and had another blocked.
“It’s tough when you turn the ball over five times,” senior running back Mike Gerst said. “They outplayed us in every phase of the game. They created turnovers; they made plays; they did what they had to do to win tonight.”
“We could have been more conservative,” Campanile said. “We could have done some things differently, but I didn’t want to. That’s not who we are. We fought hard the whole game.”
The first Germano interception set up a 73-yard scoring drive by the Ironmen, who started their next possession at the BC 17-yard line after the muffed punt.
Senior running back Elijah Shumate scored a 5-yard touchdown, giving Bosco a 14-0 lead with 3:17 remaining in the first quarter.
Gerst would get the Crusaders on the scoreboard with just six ticks left in the opening quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, Parker Tobia picked off a Yankovich pass near midfield.
However, the drive was stalled and Bosco came up with a blocked punt.
A defensive pass interference call gave the Ironmen first-and-ten at the BC 24-yard line. Shumate scored his second touchdown of the game from one-yard out with 1:03 left before half to make it 21-7.
Gerst said at halftime he felt the Crusaders spotted their rival 21 points – “at least 14,” he said. “We went into halftime saying ‘if we limit the mistakes, get in better field position, we start to move the ball, move the chains, we’d figured we were alright’. But the same things happened the second half as they did the first half.”
The Ironmen opened the third quarter with a 60-yard pass to senior wide out Leonte Caroo.
Bergen’s Ryan Kelly would pick off Yankovich in the end zone to end the threat, but a Germano pass was deflected skyward and picked off by Shumate, who took it to the house, 27-7.
Gerst returned the ensuing kickoff to the Bosco five-yard line. On third-and-five, Germano threw to junior receiver Kyle Quiero in the corner of the end zone. From the replay, it appeared that Quiero did not come down with the ball cleanly, but the play was ruled a touchdown, 27-14.
On Bergen’s next two possessions, Germano was picked, which led to two more scoring drives for Bosco, which won it’s sixth straight state title and likely second (mythical) national championship.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” Germano said. “We didn’t play to our capabilities. Wish it didn’t end like this.
“This is the best group of guys I’ve been around,” the 5-foot-11 signal caller continued. “I appreciate everything about them.”
For Gerst, the 2011 season was “the greatest experience of my life.
“I love every single one of these guys,” he added. “They all worked their butts off. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to end, but I still love all these guys.”
Campanile also extended his praise to Don Bosco, where he was offensive coordinator for a decade.
“I love those guys,” he said of the Bosco coaching staff. “I coached with them for 10 years. My brother [Anthony] is over there. I spent 10 great years with them. They deserve all the admiration and respect they can get. I’m happy for them.”
Campanile has yet to defeat his former team since taking the head coaching job in Oradell, but he has high hopes for what lies ahead.
“Next year we think we’re gonna have a great team,” he said, “and we can’t wait to get back out [and play].”