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Don Bosco Prep football preview hub: Everything you need for 2019

New coach, same high Don Bosco Prep expectations. After Mike Teel resigned from his position as head coach of the Ironmen this off-season, Don Bosco Prep went with a familiar face in Bergen County with the hiring of Dan Sabella to take over the program. Sabella, on his fifth school in North Jersey, has a proven track record of success and has won at the state’s highest level, leading Paramus Catholic to a state title as recently as 2016. Now, he’ll be looking to do the same with Don Bosco Prep....

8/22/2019

Consistency the key for Don Bosco Prep veteran QB looking to change his narrative

Jahquil Batts is on a mission to change the narrative he believes follows him. "I want to show people I can do more than just run with the ball," the Don Bosco Prep senior quarterback said. "I want to show them I'm more than just an athlete." Batts has shown flashes of the type of potential he has since his sophomore year and enters 2019 with the most live varsity experience of any 'Big 6' quarterback. Now, as he enters his final high school season, the word that's lingering around him is consistency. "I've got to show that I'm the leader of this offense and be able to make the plays when they're there," Batts said. "Coach [Dan] Sabella is drilling it in me. 'You've got to me consistent.' And lately, if I miss a play in practice, I'm the first to get on myself. In my mind I'm just thinking, 'Come on, Jah. Let's get this.'" That mindset was most evident in a recent scrimmage against Millville -- a stage with significantly less at stake than what's to come over the next three months -- but still served as another learning experience for the third-year starting quarterback. It was second-and-short and teammate Jalen Berger, NJ.com’s No. 1-ranked overall recruit, found himself breaking free from one-on-one coverage out wide. "I threw the fade and overshot him by a little bit," Batts recalled. "It's something I just can't miss. We've got to get that timing down and I've got to be more accurate. That's all part of the consistency we're looking for." Sabella, a former All-County QB himself in the early 1990s at Bogota, has made a career at getting the most out of his quarterbacks. Just three years ago, the former record-breaking QB at Monmouth took over Paramus Catholic and handed the keys to the offense to an undersized Andrew Brito, who proceeded to put up All-State caliber numbers en route to leading the Paladins to the 2016 Non-Public Group 4 title. Brito is now vying for the starting job at Division I UMass and could start against Rutgers in the season opener. Now, Sabella is looking to progress Batts’ maturation under center. "With Jahquil, it's about three things: decision making, accuracy and consistency," Sabella said. "The decision making is key. He's got to have a plan every time he walks to the line. Every play, there has to be a checklist in his mind that will put us in a good situation. Secondly, it's his overall accuracy and consistency. He'll make 2-3 terrific plays, then have a not so good one. We know he's capable of it. It comes down to knowing your players and knowing what they can do. Jahquil can do a lot." With a defense featuring several key returning starters and a handful of promising newcomers, Don Bosco’s defense is expected to, at the very least, keep them competitive in most games. While its offense averaged 28.2 points per game during last year’s 6-5 season, that number was nearly cut in half, to 15.7 points per game, in four contests against fellow Non-Public Group 4 semifinalists -- St. Joseph (Mont.), St. Peter’s Prep and Bergen Catholic twice. Should that number see a significant increase, Don Bosco Prep could be dangerous come late November. "Our defense is always outstanding at keeping the other team out of the end zone," Batts said. "It's our job to put points on the board. If our offense picks it up and plays the way we think we're capable of, this could be a special year. "The sky can be the limit once we get this thing rolling.” ...

8/22/2019

Right man, right time: Sabella brings toughness, winning pedigree back to Don Bosco

Dan Sabella wants to make one thing clear -- it’s not about him. But should the longtime and highly successful head coach bring Don Bosco Prep football back to, or even close to, the level it once was during its heyday under Greg Toal, Sabella is certainly going to be a big part of the narrative. Sabella, 44, is on the fifth stop of his coaching career in Bergen County and he’s won everywhere he’s been -- save for a two-win season at Ridgefield Park last year -- but if he stayed longer than a year, history suggests he’d probably have eventually won there, too. He's never been this close to Don Bosco before, but he's also never been too far. In 2006, when the Ironmen won their third state title in a five-year span under Toal, Sabella was leading his alma mater, Bogota, to its first and only outright sectional title ever. From 2007-15, when Don Bosco Prep won six state titles in nine years, it was Sabella who was beginning a streak at Paramus that still stands today, now at 12 years and counting, of consecutive playoff appearances. That streak included leading the Spartans to a pair of sectional finals in 2013 and 2014. His success at Paramus landed him an opportunity at nearby Paramus Catholic in 2016, his first taste at non-public football. It was his first and only chance to take on Toal and Don Bosco Prep, before Toal’s contentious split with the school that off-season. The result? Two meetings. Two Paramus Catholic wins over then-reigning state champion Don Bosco, including a 35-29 victory in the state semifinals. And eventually, a state title for Sabella and the Paladins. He reached the pinnacle of his coaching career that year, topping a program he “admired from a distance," and now he’s back seeking a similar type of success in Ramsey. “I just have always followed this program and been in awe of the success they had over those years,” said Sabella, who enters 2019 with a 128-68 career record. "What Coach Toal and these guys were able to do up here was special and now it’s exciting to be part of that tradition. "Now it’s about wanting to get back to playing a high level of football and representing the Bosco brand to the highest level we can. The way it was during that great run they had here.” Having experience in ‘Big 6’ football will only help Sabella and the Ironmen -- “it’s beneficial just knowing the climate,” he said -- and his players agree that he has brought a different mentality to the program, as they look to continue to improve after a rough two-win 2017 and up-and-down 6-5 season last fall. "He's brought this mindset of being nasty, being intense and being physical on both offense and defense," senior quarterback Jahquil Batts said. "He'll definitely get on us if we're not doing our thing the way he knows we're capable of," senior defensive lineman Dakeel Thompson said. "There's no letting up in practice with him," senior defensive lineman Jahmir Greene said. "He wants us to hit. He wants us to be physical and to really let loose. That's the only way we're going to get better." For the Ironmen seniors, Sabella represents their third head coach in the last four years. From Toal to Mike Teel and now Sabella, there remains a sense of tradition and history up the hill at Granatell Stadium. Senior linebacker Colin Ramos said Sabella has brought "a great toughness" to the program -- the same kind of toughness Don Bosco became synonymous and nationally recognized for under Toal. The Ironmen will be tested immediately the first two weeks, taking on a consensus top five team nationally, St. John Bosco, in California on Aug. 30 and another nationally ranked opponent one week later at home when Washington D.C.'s Gonzaga comes to town. "We're really going to find out about ourselves quickly," Sabella said. "It's been a long buildup and now we're about a week away. It'll be a tremendous challenge, but that's what we signed up for." And that is what Sabella is here for....

8/22/2019

Don Bosco Prep football preview, 2019: New coach, big expectations for perennial power

Don Bosco Prep Ironmen Head coach: Dan Sabella, 128-68 overall (at Bogota, Paramus, Paramus Catholic and Ridgefield Park), 1st season with Don Bosco Last year: 6-5; Lost in Non-Public Group 4 semifinals to Bergen Catholic, 35-17 2019 classification: Non-Public Group 4 Starting SI rating: 87 Conference and division: Super Football Conference, United Red Division opponents: Bergen Catholic, St. Joseph (Mont.), Paramus Catholic, St. Peter’s Prep Key players: Jalen Berger, Sr., RB; Kyle Monangai, Sr., RB; Jahquil Batts, Sr., QB; Colin Ramos, Sr., LB; Jahmir Greene, Sr., DL; Mike Courtney, Sr., DB; Arsheen Jiles, Sr., DB; Mike Fallah, Sr., OL; Romaine Robinson, Sr., DB Outlook: After struggling to just two wins in 2017, former coach Mike Teel began turning things around in his second year with the program, tripling its win total last season. Teel has since stepped down and Sabella, who won a pair of sectional titles at Bogota in 2006 and Paramus Catholic in 2016, enters with high expectations and an impressive resume. Sabella has a history of winning big and quickly and he’s beginning at Don Bosco Prep with a strong, fast defense -- headlned by Ramos and Greene -- and a talented slew of skill position players. Sabella and his team will be tested in a big way right out of the gate this season, as the program is heading west to take on national power St. John Bosco, a unanimous top five team in the country. Big storyline: Just how dynamic will a backfield of Berger and Monangai be this fall and what kind of progress will Batts show under center? Expect Berger, who remains uncommitted, to serve a variety of different roles in Sabella’s offense and both running backs to make up one of the best 1-2 punches in New Jersey. One of the things to watch this year will be Don Bosco Prep’s ability to close out games, something Sabella is a point of emphasis this preseason. 2019 schedule Aug. 30: at St. John Bosco (Calif.) Sept. 6: vs. Gonzaga (D.C.) Sept. 20: vs. West Orange Sept. 27: vs. Bergen Catholic Oct. 5: at Pope John Oct. 11: at St. Peter's Prep Oct. 19: at St. Joseph (Mont.) Oct. 25: vs. DePaul Nov. 1: vs. Paramus Catholic...

8/19/2019

Don Bosco Prep finishes off Bergen Catholic in North N-P A semis

It took two days, nearly three, for eighth-seeded Don Bosco Prep, No. 12 in the NJ.com Top 20, to beat the inclement weather as well as its fourth-seeded arch rival, Bergen Catholic, 2-1 in the semifinal round of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Non-Public A tournament at Breslin Field in Lyndhurst. Don Bosco (17-7) leaned on dominant efforts on the hill from John Modugno and Devin Rivera, who combined to throw a four-hitter. Many would say the seven-loss eighth-seeded Ironmen have exceeded expectations in this deep run, but coach Mike Rooney always had the bar set at this level. "To be honest, it's our plan to make it into June," he said. "I certainly won't say we're surprised by it, but we feel good about it because we've played some quality opponents along the way. We plan to extend the season as long as possible and deserve to be in this situation." The game was extended from Wednesday when play was suspended because of rain, with Bosco holding a 2-0 lead entering the fifth inning. Modugno earned the start on day one, collecting nine strikeouts while surrendering one hit and two walks as Rivera threw Thursday's three innings with three hits, one earned run, no strikeouts and no walks. Rooney said that even though the game took two days to complete, it should not mean Modugno's performance on Wednesday had no impact on Thursday's action. "You can't separate the two days because what John did for us with those four innings last night was great," he said. "He was throwing the ball great and would have went five, maybe more. He got us to the position today to hand the ball over to Devin, who got us to the finish line." While both arms gave Bergen Catholic (19-7) fits, each hurler had to dig out of a dangerous jam. Modugno's came in the second inning as Crusader sophomore Tywone Malone drove a ball down the right-field line for a lead-off double. He then recorded a groundout and three strikeouts (one dropped third strike) to recover and dodge damage. The Indiana commit said that keeping the Bergen Catholic lineup honest was what led to his dominant four innings of work. "I worked the middle of the zone out," he said. "I worked two-seamers and sliders with the lefty and righty batters which has always seemed to work against them." Rivera found his trouble in the sixth. The future Villanova Wildcat hit Malone with two strikes before Juan De La Cruz plated the courtesy running Patrick Cerami on a double off of the left-field fence to cut the deficit to one run. De La Cruz took third base on a wild pitch, however Rivera punched out Dillon DiBartolomeo to stop the rally. "I think my curveball and two-seamer were reliable today," he said. "I just had to stay composed, make pitches and know my defense had my back. We knew we had to come out and hold the 2-0 lead." Charlie Granatell and Jason Azzolino drove home the two runs for the Ironmen. Daniel Helfgott added to the victory with two hits. The loss on the other hand is one that will sting Crusader nation for the better part of nine months. It not only brings the season to an end and gives Bosco and its students bragging rights until next March, it's seen as a microcosm of the season by head coach Bob Muggeo. "We just didn't hit either day," he said. "These playoff games are one-run games, so if you take an 0-for, it's over and there's no chance to make up for it. "Jake and Dom gave us what I expected. It's baseball and a tough game to predict, but we couldn't produce with runners in scoring position. That has been the story of our year and maybe it's because we're experienced, but we have to take better at-bats in big situations." Though Bergen Catholic's roster is loaded with underclassmen, it does graduate several seniors this spring. Muggeo had a message for that group on senior day, and after a run to the sectional semifinal, that message has not changed. "I told them that they came in here four years ago and we raised the bar," he said. "We created a standard that the younger guys will look up to. We were a little below where we were in the past because 20 wins is always our benchmark, but we played a tough schedule to keep us mentally and physically prepared for days like today." It will be a quick turnaround for the Ironmen, who will visit second-seeded and No. 1-ranked Delbarton in the tournament championship in Morristown tomorrow at 3 p.m. Though Don Bosco will be on the diamond for the third straight day and possibly facing the the state's best pitcher in Jack Leiter, Rivera and his team plan to do exactly what they did Thursday: finish the job. "We're going to put up a fight," he said. "It doesn't matter who we're playing against. We're going to go out thinking we will win." ...

5/30/2019

Don Bosco leads Bergen Catholic, 2-0, in suspended NPA semifinal

It was a race between bad weather and the hot bats of eighth-seeded Don Bosco Prep against its arch rival, fourth-seeded Bergen Catholic, in their NJSIAA Non-Public, Group A semifinal tilt on Wednesday at Breslin Field in Lyndhurst. The Ironmen, No. 12 in the NJ.com Top 20, seemed to be leading that race with two runs and six hits through the first four innings before Mother Nature reared her ugly head with heavy rain, thunder and lightning just minutes after the final out in the bottom of the fourth. The game is set to resume at the top of the fifth inning on Thursday at Breslin Field at 4 p.m. The inclement weather is a tough break for the offense of Don Bosco Prep (16-7), as well as its ace John Modugno, who was in a groove with nine strikeouts, one hit and two walks while still ways away from the 110-pitch limit. Starter Jacob Denner of Bergen Catholic (17-8) began the contest in a similar rhythm until the the top of the Ironmen lineup tagged him with three-straight singles in the third, one coming from Charlie Granatell which drove home John Cohen. Denner picked off Daniel Helfgott to end the inning. Jason Azzolino produced the second RBI for Don Bosco Prep in the fourth on a single that scored Anthony Petrosino. Tywone Malone logged the lone hit for the Crusaders, a double down the right-field line in the second....

5/29/2019

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