For the first time in six years, football fans will see a different Bergen Catholic opponent in the Non Public Group 4 title game as the third seeded Crusaders take the field against top seeded Paramus Catholic on Friday 8pm at MetLife Stadium.
For these two teams, whose new found rival hit an all new high two weeks ago in the Turkey Bowl (won by BC 35-21), tonight's game would actually be the second all-time playoff meeting between both sides. The last time they met in the postseason was in the 1992 Parochial North A State Final, which saw BC emerge victorious with a 44-34 win.
To date, Bergen leads their series against the Paladins 30-2 with their dual losses to Paramus Catholic in 1976 (10-8) and 2006 (18-16).
After defeating Don Bosco Prep for the first time in eight years, the Crusaders (8-3) have advanced back to the state final for the third consecutive season, and for the 27th time in program history.
Facing their archrival Ironmen, Bergen Catholic got off to a hot start racing out to a 21-0 lead and running a staggering 29 plays before handing the ball over to Don Bosco. The Crusaders held on for an emotional 28-14 win in Ramsey which marked their first win over Bosco in 11 years and the first win in Ramsey since 1990.
Bergen previously downed Notre Dame in the Non Public Group 4 state tournament by shutting out the Irish, 63-0. The Crusaders scored a school-record 42 points in the first quarter and subsequently pulled their key starters before the second quarter.
Leading the charge against the Paladins will be senior quarterback Jon Germano who was recently named the New Jersey 2012 Gatorade Football Player of the Year and has written several new records at Bergen this season.
The former safety turned signal caller is now the school's all time leader in career passing touchdowns, yards, and completions after two years in the lead position.
Joining the mix are JJ Kulcsar (all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, 2nd all time in touchdowns), John Feaster (10th all-time in receiving yards, 8th in touchdowns), Garrett Dicerskon (6th all-time in tightend receptions), Kurt Holuba (7th in single season sacks), and Parker Tobia (10th all-time in career tackles).
James Dawson (280 carries for 1,510 yards and 16 TDs, 32 receptions for 314 yards and 7 TDs), Danny Grasso (144 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble and 2 sacks) and JP Garcia (50 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 1 fumble) round out the Crusaders key starters.
The Paladins have appeared in the state finals just twice in the past, the first when they lost to Bergen Catholic in 1992 and then in 1997 when the school won the Non-Public Group 3 title.
The biggest reason for the Paladins successes have been utilizing the Wildcat formation with slotback Jabrill Peppers and relying on the arm of quarterback Steve Shanley. The high octane offense has been stuffed twice this season - by Don Bosco Prep and Bergen Catholic - teams that effectively shut down Peppers' running game and Shanley's passing.
Shanley has completed 100 of 167 throws for 1,616 yards while Peppers has thrown three for 10 for 88 yards. The junior slotback's biggest numbers come when allowed to run, picking up 1,342 rushing yards and 337 receiving yards. He's also recorded 71 tackles, one sack and three interceptions while playing both ways on offense and defense.
Rounding out the offense are Tyrone Washington (27 catches for 501 yards), Keyon Washington (113 carries for 725 yards, 33 receiving yards), Dejon Harrison (20 carries for 215 yards, 368 receiving yards) and Najee Clayton (28 catches for 429 yards).
While Marquise Watson (119 tackles, 3 sacks), Brandon Spearman (35 tackles, 2 interceptions) and Khilyni Kennedy (86 tackles, 8.5 sacks) lead the defense, Tyrone Washington (33 tackles, 2 interceptions) also play both ways with Peppers on defense.
Saleem Brightwell (4 interceptions) and James Colacci (3 interceptions) have also begun to shine in the backfield over the past few weeks.
Kickoff is 8pm at MetLife Stadium, One MetLife Stadium Drive, in East Rutherford. The stadium will open at 4pm, an hour before the first game of the evening, Hoboken vs. Roselle Park. The $10 parking fee will get football fans in for both games Friday night. Entrance is at the Pepsi Gatenear Parking Lot G.