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Colin Ramos stood alone near midfield along the Don Bosco Prep sideline, with an exuberant St. Peter’s Prep celebration going on just yards away from him. The heart and soul of the Ironmen, one of the biggest leaders behind the team's resurgence in 2019, stood motionless under the bright lights of MetLife Stadium. His team - and this was as much his team defensively as it was Jalen Berger and Kyle Monangai's offensively - was the last Ironman to leave the field after Don Bosco suffered as demoralizing a loss as there is in Saturday's Non-Public Group 4 state final. Teammates, assistants and, finally, head coach Dan Sabella all passed by to console the Don Bosco Prep senior bound for Navy, one who couldn’t have left more on the field in a 21-14 loss to the Marauders, fueled by a go-ahead two-point conversion with five minutes left and a St. Peter’s Prep blocked 43-yard field goal attempt with under one minute to go. "This one's going to hurt," Sabella said. "For a long, long time. I just hurt for these kids. These kids have come on and, to get so close... I'm just proud as heck of the way they battled, especially the last 6-7 weeks. They all wanted this. We all wanted this." Credit St. Peter's Prep for making the plays Saturday night when the championship was on the line. Neither team put on an offensive clinic, but the Marauders simply made bigger plays in bigger moments. St. Peter’s Prep QB Tahj Bullock, like he had some so impressively three times this season leading up to Saturday’s showdown, once again led his team on a late, game-winning drive. This one brought a title back to Jersey City for the first time since 2014 and left the Ironmen still seeking their first since 2015. This time, the Marauders – trailing, 14-7 – marched 73 yards in 12 plays in just over six minutes, including a 4th-and-2 conversion, and capped by yet another tough Bullock 5-yard touchdown run with 5:00 left. Tahj Time had arrived in East Rutherford again – but there was more Marauder Magic to be had. A successful two-point conversion run from Jelani Mason, following a St. Peter's Prep timeout and gutsy call from coach Rich Hansen, gave the Marauders' their first lead of the night, 15-14. The final dagger came when Don Bosco Prep, playing with former starter Jahquil Batts at quarterback after Jake Robbins suffered a head injury in the second quarter, drove to the SPP 26 in the final minute. A blocked 43-yard field goal from Quentin Lemon led to a recovery returned for a touchdown from Avery Powell to put St. Peter's Prep ahead, 21-14, with 41 seconds left. "The operation was off," Sabella said. "It took a long time and it wasn't well-executed." The same could be said for Don Bosco's offense for much of the night. St. Peter’s Prep’s swarming and physical defense came to play and, for much of the night, bottled up Berger and Monangai in the run game, making the Ironmen offense one-dimensional. The Ironmen, though, held a 14-7 lead into the fourth thanks to one offensive drive in the first half, which included a 49-yard run from Berger and was capped by a Berger 3-yard touchdown run, and a blocked punt by Jahmir Greene recovered in the end zone by Ramos. But from that moment, with 1:28 left in the first, Don Bosco Prep's mustered just 70 yards of offense in its final seven offensive possessions, including three separate three-and-outs. "Just a lot of disappointment and, obviously, frustration," Sabella said. "We could never get up two scores and we had so many opportunities to do that and put some pressure on them. We just were never able to do that. We need to put more points on the board." Sabella missed out on his opportunity to make history, looking to lead a second North Jersey non-public power to a state title in his first year. He did it with Paramus Catholic in 2016 and came painfully short with Don Bosco in 2019. Still, he led the Ironmen to the state's No. 1 ranking up until the final day of their season and, after a tough three-year stretch, Don Bosco football was back. No, it didn’t win the title – but the Ironmen, who sat at 2-4 at midseason, were on the brink of doing so. Ironically, Don Bosco Prep beat everyone it played in October and November this season except one team: St. Peter’s Prep, which handed Don Bosco a first heartbreaker at Caven Point back on Oct. 12. "For these seniors especially, I just feel for them," Sabella said. "They stayed the course here and came so far. I've got nothing but respect for every one of those guys. They got us back here. They believed in each other. They believed in this program....

12/1/2019

Behind a dominant defensive effort, Don Bosco Prep downed. St. Joseph (Mont.), 10-8, in the Non-Public Group 4 semifinals to advance to its first state final since 2015. The defense, which limited St. Joseph to just over 200 yards of offense, supplied the Ironmen’s lone touchdown of the day, coming on a 40-yard fumble return -- forced by Michael Courtney -- in the first half. Senior LB Colin Ramos wrecked havoc throughout, Constantino Borelli registered an interception and the Don Bosco Prep defense stood its ground one final time on a decisive two-point conversion attempt following a late touchdown from the Green Knights to pull within two. Sophomore Claudy Robinson and freshman Cameron Lenhardt, among others, were in on the emphatic goal line denial with 1:16 left. The win marked Don Bosco’s fifth straight after a 2-4 start....

11/25/2019

He grew up watching and idolzing the North Jersey greats, the likes of Jabrill Peppers and Rashan Gary and Brandon Wimbush and Minkah Fitzpatrick dominating on the biggest stage New Jersey football has to offer. He grew up waiting his turn to shine in the Non-Public Group 4 final under the bright lights of MetLife Stadium, just like those others all destined for greatness at higher levels did before him. It seemed inevitable that, at some point, Don Bosco Prep's Jalen Berger would join that list and have the spotlight on him in a state final, earning the opportunity to lead the Ironmen to the state's most coveted and competitive championship. That chance has finally arrived for one of the nation's top recruits. After years of highs and lows and ups and downs since enrolling at Don Bosco Prep in 2016, Berger will be the main attraction when his Ironmen take on St. Peter's Prep in next week's Non-Public Group 4 final. At last. "I've been waiting my whole life for this," Berger said following Don Bosco's 10-8 win over St. Joseph (Mont.) in Saturday's semifinals. "I've been tired of watching other teams play at MetLife. I just wanted to actually step on that field and play." It has not been all smooth sailing for Berger, a dynamic four-year starter and four-star recruit with at least 30 major Division I college offers, since arriving in Ramsey. At the start of this season, the number of head coaches Berger had played for (3) was greater than the number of state playoff wins (2) he was a part of. He has seen three division rivals - Paramus Catholic, Bergen Catholic and St. Joseph - all win state titles during his high school career, while suffering a pair of losses in the state semifinals. At one point this season, with Don Bosco sitting at 2-4, Berger’s career record with Don Bosco was 16-22 and, even with Don Bosco’s recent five-game win streak, still stands at under .500 at 21-22. At any point, he could have jumped ship - like we’ve seen many other high-profile players do before him, particularly in the ever-changing landscape of North Jersey non-public football. But Berger, much like Don Bosco Prep this season, stayed the course. "Frustrating," he said. "But it's always been about sticking to the process. Trusting the process." "He's shown an incredible amount of loyalty to Don Bosco," coach Dan Sabella said. "So it's exciting he gets to play on the big stage. Jalen's earned it." Much like the stars he watched come through Jersey before him, Berger appears destined for similar success at the next level and potentially beyond as his career continues at a college of his choosing (which he'll decide on and announce Jan. 4). With St. Joseph (Mont.) focusing much defensive attention on Berger on Saturday, especially with a limited Kyle Monangai (ankle) in the backfield, Berger still had a major impact on the outcome. It was his 52-yard run down the Don Bosco sideline early in the fourth quarter and key 15-yard reception on a 3rd-and-12 which helped set up the Ironmen's crucial field goal with 6:26 left - ultimately the game-winning points in an eventual two-point win. “Just Jalen being Jalen,” Sabella said of Berger, who has rushed for 1,023 yards and 14 TDs this season, while adding another 302 yards and 3 TDs receiving. “You get to this time of year, everyone’s banged up. But Jalen’s a competitor. He had to make some plays for us and everyone here knew Joe’s was keying on him, knowing he’s the guy when Kyle’s not out there. And Jalen still came through when we needed it. That’s just the kind of player he is.” In a game when the Don Bosco Prep struggled for much of the afternoon, Berger still accounted for more than 71 percent of his team’s total yardage. Don Bosco Prep had 109 yards of offense; Berger was responsible for 78 of those, with 51 yards rushing and 27 receiving. Now, Berger has one game left in his high school career, one final opportunity to leave his mark among New Jersey's all-time greats and leave as a champion. Berger has trusted the process. Now Don Bosco Prep is trusting, and relying on, him. ...

11/23/2019

A classic non-public playoff game that will be remembered for a long time boiled down to a two-point conversion. Don Bosco Prep got the stop. The stop by sophomore Claudy Robinson and the Don Bosco Prep defense solidified a 10-8 win over St. Joseph (Mont.) on Saturday in the NJSIAA/Rothman Orthopaedics Non-Public, Group 4 semifinals after the Green Knights nearly sent the game to overtime with an improbable comeback. This one had a little bit of everything but mostly dominant defensive play by both teams. Check out our complete coverage below....

11/23/2019

Don Bosco Prep fell behind early against Bergen Catholic after surrendering an opening touchdown drive then rattled off 24 unanswered points in a 24-7 to extend its winning streak to four, while snapping its four-game losing streak to the Crusaders. Jalen Berger rushed 15 times for 142 yards and one touchdown, an 82-yard score in the third quarter to put the Ironmen ahead, 17-7. In the first half, Don Bosco erased a 7-0 deficit thanks to a safety (Lee Turner with the pressure; Jahmir Greene with the strip sack in the end zone) and a 22-yard touchdown pass from Jake Robbins to Kyle Monangai. A successful two-point conversion run by Monangai, who left the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury, gave Don Bosco a 10-7 lead at half. Don Bosco Prep’s defense, led by Colin Ramos and Michael Courtney, is allowing just 8.5 points per game during their four game win streak in wins over St. Joseph (Mont.), DePaul, Paramus Catholic and Bergen Catholic. Schedule Aug. 30: at St. John Bosco (Ca.), L 56-21 Sept. 6: vs. Gonzaga (D.C.), L 35-21 Sept. 20: vs. West Orange, W 50-18 Sept. 27: vs. Bergen Catholic, L 23-17 Oct. 5: at Pope John, W 38-0 Oct. 11: at St. Peter’s Prep, L 26-22 Oct. 19: at St. Joseph (Mont.), W 35-14 Oct. 25: vs. DePaul, W 42-6 Nov. 1: vs. Paramus Catholic, W 49-7 Nov. 15: vs. Bergen Catholic, W 24-7 Nov. 23: at St. Joseph (Mont.) in NPG4 semis...

11/18/2019

1-Don Bosco Prep (5-4) Last week: No. 1 Don Bosco Prep is back on top. It’s unknown when exactly the last time the Ironmen held the No. 1 spot in the NJ.com Top 20, but it’s been a while. Following a heartbreaking, last-second loss to St. Peter’s Prep back on Oct. 12, Don Bosco Prep was sitting at 2-4. But then, everything changed. Three straight wins over St. Joseph (Mont.), DePaul and Paramus Catholic, coupled with some stunning results in that stretch (including last week’s Nos. 1, 2 and 3 teams falling), has resulted in the Ironmen owning the distinctions as “the team no one wants to see” in the state playoffs and the No. 1-ranked team in New Jersey. First-year coach Dan Sabella has the Ironmen playing their best football at the right time of the year, a staple throughout his career, and RBs Kyle Monangai and Jalen Berger have been on fire the past month of the season. Schedule Aug. 30: at St. John Bosco (Ca.), L 56-21 Sept. 6: vs. Gonzaga (D.C.), L 35-21 Sept. 20: vs. West Orange, W 50-18 Sept. 27: vs. Bergen Catholic, L 23-17 Oct. 5: at Pope John, W 38-0 Oct. 11: at St. Peter’s Prep, L 26-22 Oct. 19: at St. Joseph (Mont.), W 35-14 Oct. 25: vs. DePaul, W 42-6 Nov. 1: vs. Paramus Catholic, W 49-7...

11/4/2019

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