St. John Vianney Wraps Up First Division Title Since 1982 With Win Over Manasquan
MANASQUAN - When Mark Ciccotelli left Neptune to take the head coaching job at St. John Vianney this past offseason, a major point of emphasis was starting a tradition at a program that had not had much tangible success in the last 30 years.
The Lancers had not won a division title since 1982 and still have not won a state playoff game since 1981, but in just nine games under Ciccotelli, they have already erased one of those long droughts to lay the foundation for a new tradition. St. John Vianney, ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, improved to 9-0 for the first time in history and wrapped up its first outright division title in 32 years when it beat Manasquan 34-7 in Class A Central on Saturday.
"This is where you start,'' Ciccotelli said. "(Sophomore linebacker Tyler) Tedeschi came up to me in preseason and said, 'Coach I just got back from Michigan and being able to see the tradition they have.' I said, 'Look we have to build it like that here, and it starts here in practice. Keep grinding away, have each other's backs, and that's what we're going to have to do to be successful."
"We haven't done this since 1982 so it's a very big accomplishment in St. John Vianney history,'' said junior quarterback Anthony Brown. "We're just going to take it and move on from here."
Brown threw a pair of touchdown passes to senior wideout Dan Calabro, and junior running back Calvin Beaty ran for a pair of scores while the defense held the Warriors (3-5, 2-4) to 108 total yards. The victory came a day after No. 1 Red Bank Catholic was stunned 33-27 in overtime by Jackson Memorial to end its 40-game winning streak against Shore Conference teams. The loss left the Lancers (9-0, 6-0), who are one win away from tying the school single-season record set in 1980, as the lone unbeaten team left in the Shore Conference with the debate raging over who will be the new No. 1 team.
"We can't be denied,'' Brown said. "We're the No. 1 team in the Shore."
St. John Vianney led from start to finish at Vic Kubu Warrior Field, where it is believed to have never won a game until Saturday. The Lancers took the opening kickoff and drove 65 yards in nine plays, taking a 7-0 lead on a 27-yard strike to Calabro from Brown, who leads the Shore Conference with 21 touchdown passes.
The score would remain that way until the second quarter, when St. John Vianney junior cornerback Khalil Haskins registered his Shore Conference-leading fifth interception of the season and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown that made it 13-0 after the extra point was no good with 3:22 left in the half.
Meanwhile, the swarming Lancers defense stifled an undermanned Manasquan offense that was already without injured freshman standout running back Connor Morgan. Senior James McAlary, the team's leading rusher, also left the game with an apparent knee injury in the second quarter and did not return. St. John Vianney limited the Warriors to 35 total yards and two first downs in taking a 13-0 lead at the break.
"We had to toughen up,'' said Calabro, who is also the team's leading tackler as a hybrid safety/linebacker in the 3-3-5 stack. "We knew that people coming into this game were probably questioning our defense, and our defense had a lot of things to prove today. I think we answered a couple questions."
Manasquan mounted its only scoring drive of the afternoon and trimmed the lead to 13-7 with a five-play, 52-yard drive to open the third quarter. Freshman quarterback Tommy Antonucci, the son of Middletown South head coach Steve Antonucci, scored his first varsity touchdown on a 5-yard run on third down to get the Warriors on the board with 9:37 left in the third quarter.
The score was a wake-up call for the Lancers' offense, which had five dropped passes on a day when Brown also threw his first two interceptions of the season in finishing 13-for-33 passing for 187 yards.
"We just had to finish,'' Brown said. "We weren't executing the way we were supposed to."
After the teams traded three-and-outs, St. John Vianney re-established control of the game with a six-play, 68-yard drive that highlighted its array of playmakers. Haskins ripped off a 57-yard run on a jet sweep, and then Brown showed his athleticism with his second touchdown throw to Calabro. On fourth-and-19, Brown scrambled right to keep the play alive long enough to find Calabro for a 20-yard touchdown pass and a 20-7 lead with 4:33 left in the third quarter.
"Our line held up great on that play,'' Brown said. "It was cloudy on the left side, so I took it to the right, Danny did his pursuit drill, and I found him in the end zone."
"He's a very athletic quarterback, and he knows how to make plays when things don't necessarily go according to plan,'' Calabro said. "He ad libs it a lot and makes plays like that."
The defense then put it on a platter for the offense when Calabro sacked Manasquan's Liam Grieb, forcing a fumble that was recovered at the Warriors' 7-yard line by Beaty, who had an outstanding game at linebacker. On the next play, Beaty bulldozed his way into the end zone for 27-7 lead with 11:45 left in the game. Beaty later added a 1-yard touchdown run for the final margin.
St. John Vianney will now turn its eyes to the state playoffs, where it has unofficially secured the No. 4 seed in the Non-Public Group III bracket and will host No. 5 Pope John XXIII on Friday in search of its first playoff win in 33 years.
"We worked very hard for what we got today,'' Calabro said. "We get to enjoy it a little bit, but we know next week we have to step up because we're going to be playing a very good football team. We're not concerned with our record, we're concerned with the next game."
St. John Vianney 34, Manasquan 7
. S M
First downs 15 4
Rushes-yards 25-173 30-58
Passing 13-33-2 7-17-1
Passing yards 187 50
Penalties 7-50 4-25
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1
St. John Vianney (9-0, 6-0) 7 6 7 14 - 34
Manasquan (3-5, 2-4) 0 0 7 0 - 7
S: Calabro 27-yard pass from Brown (Rice kick).
S: Haskins 32-yard INT return (kick failed).
M: Antonucci 5-yard run (Sabins kick).
S: Calabro 20-yard pass from Brown (Rice kick).
S: Beaty 7-yard run (Rice kick).
S: Beaty 1-yard run (Rice kick).
Rushing - S: Brown 13-67, Haskins 3-69, Sheard 2-9, Mora 1-7, Beaty 6-21. M: McAlary 6-5, Morris 7-21, Antonucci 8-7, Saulys 8-29, Grieb 1-(-4).
Passing - S: Brown 13-33-2 187. M: Grieb 5-13-1 17, Antonucci 2-4-0 33.
Receiving - S: Braccia 3-54, Haskins 3-25, Sheard 3-31, Calabro 3-51, Mora 1-26. M: Paturzo 2-18, Jaime 1-1, Cowley 1-2, Hawkins 1-20, Morris 1-8, 1-1.
Interceptions - S: Haskins 1-32. M: Paturzo 1-0, Carrithers 1-21.