In 2009, the season ended in the first week of December for the Don Bosco Prep Ironmen of Ramsey, New Jersey when they defeated St. Peter's Prep in the New Jersey championship game at Giants Stadium. Yet, even at 12-0 and with convincing victories over national powers De La Salle (Concord, Calif.) and Prattville (Prattville, Ala.), Don Bosco was third in the country as the national season hit its final stretch. But when Nos. 1 and 2 fell to defeat late, especially then top-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the Ironmen deservedly became the unanimous No. 1 team in the ESPN RISE FAB 50 and the USA TODAY Super 25 rankings. Bosco's extraordinary year ended with head coach Greg Toal being named Coach of the Year by USA Today.
As Don Bosco prepared to begin the 2010 high school football season against The Gilman School at Hughes Field in Baltimore, a surprising number of questions hung over the defending champs. How would they manage to fill the void left by 28 departing seniors? Would Paul Canevari be able to make a successful transition from defensive end to starting tailback? How would Bosco's offense function in the post-Nunzio Campinele era? By roughly 9:30pm, all of those questions would be answered in the most impressive of fashions.
Gilman came in boasting a 2-0 record including a 28-7 upset victory over Good Counsel. But any momentum that they may have brought with them into Friday night's affair was quickly vanquished. An early drive for the Greyhounds stalled after Bosco's new look defense shut down star quarterback Darius Jennings' and his threatening ground attack. On Bosco's ensuing possession, Gary Nova led a methodical drive downfield resulting in an Aiden Murray field goal. Another Greyhound series quickly went by the wayside and Bosco took advantage, marching down the field with little resistance. On the first play of the second quarter, Nova hit junior wideout Leonte Carroo on a crossing pattern for a touchdown putting the Ironmen up 10-0. Carroo was clearly the story of the first half hauling in seven receptions and proving that even after missing most of last season due to injury, he was still on the same page as his University of Pittsburgh bound QB.
Meanwhile, Gilman was able to generate nothing offensively as junior defensive tackle Darius Hamilton (son of former NY Giant Keith Hamilton) put his impressive skillset on display. Hamilton spent much of the evening in the Greyhounds backfield collecting 10 tackles and making it virtually impossible for Jennings to run any kind of an offense. Equally as impressive as Hamilton was the Don Bosco debut of linebacker Elijah Shumate. The Paterson Catholic transfer was a force to be reckoned both in run stoppage and in pass coverage. So unique is Shumate's athletic ability that Bosco actually had him back deep alongside Carroo to return kicks, a task virtually unheard of for a linebacker.
As the first half progressed, a new storyline began to emerge. Last season, Paul Canevari was a crucial member of Bosco's defensive line. But after Tony Jones and TJ Franzese graduated, a hole was left at the running back position. Enter Canevari. At 6'1 and 220 pounds, he is a much different kind of runner than what Bosco had in Jones (now a freshman at the University of Colorado) last season. But throughout the first half, he showed that his bruising style could be just as effective as Jones' shiftiness. Canevari continuously prolonged drives by picking up positive yardage and topped off his exceptional half with a 65 yard burst down to the 1 yd line (he would score two plays later). That scamper put him over the 100 yard mark but he was only getting started. Early in the second half, another Greyhound drive was stymied when freshman Jabril Peppers intercepted Jennings at the Bosco three yard line. On the very next play, Canevari took the handoff, bowled over a defender and went 97 yards for the score. Shortly after that, he exploded for a 57 yard run down to the 1 yard line which was also capped off by yet another Canevari touchdown.
By the end of the night, the senior from Warwick had compiled a staggering total of 321 yards on 22 carries with three scores. All those who wondered whether or not the former defensive end would have the requisite breakaway speed to effectively handle the role of starting tailback had emphatically received their answer.
On a night filled with questions, only Don Bosco had answers. Concern as to whether or not this team is fit to defend its crown appears to be without merit. They block like the Bosco of old, they run like the Bosco of old, they defend like the Bosco of old and after their thrashing of Gilman, clearly they win like the Bosco of old.
Final score: Don Bosco 33, Gilman 6.
Bob Galerstein is a "SportsCenter" anchor at 1050 ESPN New York and is the Play-by-Play voice for 1050's high school web casts. You can e-mail Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew Gundling is a producer at 1050 ESPN New York and provides color commentary for 1050's high school web casts.