2021 NJSIAA Non-Public B State Championship Preview: Red Bank Catholic vs. DePaul
NJSIAA NON-PUBLIC B STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
WHO: 2-Red Bank Catholic (10-1) vs. 1-DePaul (9-2)
WHEN: Friday, Nov. 26, 7 p.m.
WHERE: MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford
RED BANK CATHOLIC'S ROAD TO THE FINAL: Defeated Morris Catholic, 58-34, in the quarterfinals; defeated St. Joseph Academy, 21-10, in the semifinals.
DEPAUL'S ROAD TO THE FINAL: Defeated Immaculata, 42-2, in the quarterfinals; defeated Holy Spirit, 28-14, in the semifinals.
RED BANK CATHOLIC'S BEST WINS: 20-16 over Wall; 49-7 over Central Jersey Group 2 finalist Raritan; 41-7 over Manasquan; 21-14 over Central Jersey Group 3 finalist Rumson-Fair Haven; 47-7 win over Manalapan; 21-10 over St. Joseph Academy.
DEPAUL'S BEST WINS: 17-0 over St. Joseph (Montvale); 35-3 over Pope John; 14-7 over Delbarton; 21-0 over North 2, Group 4 champion Irvington; 20-6 over Seton Hall Prep; 28-14 over Holy Spirit.
PLAYOFF HISTORY: Red Bank Catholic has three parochial championships in program history, including the 2018 Non-Public Group 3 championship and the 2014 Non-Public Group 3 championship. This will be the Caseys' sixth appearance in a sectional/group final. They have a 16-24 all-time playoff record in 28 appearances...DePaul will be aiming to win the program's eighth sectional/group title. The Spartans have won five state championships since 2013, including the 2017 and 2019 Non-Public Group 3 championships. They have a 31-21 all-time playoff record in 29 appearances and have reached the championship game 16 times.
RED BANK CATHOLIC STAT LEADERS
Alex Brown, Sr., QB: 1,688 yards passing, 21 TDs, 2 INTs; 455 yards rushing and 9 TDs
Alex Bauman, Sr., TE/DE: 24 rec. for 413 yards and 6 TDs; 56 tackles, 5 sacks, 15 TFL.
Sabino Portella, Jr., RB/SS: 125 carries for 791 yards and 9 TDs; 53 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 INT.
Najih Rahman, Jr., WR: 30 rec. for 473 yards and 3 TDs
Davin Brewton, So., LB: 84 tackles, 2 sacks, 9 TFL
Rajahn Cooper, Sr., RB/LB: 67 carries for 477 yards and 5 TDs; 2 receiving TDs; 44 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 FF, 1 FR.
Torin Harmon, Jr., RB: 49 carries for 557 yards and 3 TDs
Emanuel Ross, So., WR: 15 rec, for 283 yards and 5 TDs
Robert Stolfa, Jr., WR: 13 rec. for 205 yards and 3 TDs
Ryan McPherson, Sr., DE: 41 tackles, 3 sacks, 11 TFL
Aidan Donahue, Jr., DL: 32 tackles, 2 sacks, 10 TFL.
Joe Diorio, Sr., CB: 2 INTs
DEPAUL STAT LEADERS
AJ Rodriguez, Sr., QB: 1,690 yards passing, 18 TDs, 6 INTs; 87 carries for 423 yards rushing and 4 TDs.
Marshawn Ferguson, Sr., WR: 46 rec for 756 yards and 8 TDs
Q'Yaeir Price, Sr., DL/LB: 90 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 35 TFL
Tyler Brown, Sr., RB: 90 carries for 502 yards and 4 TDs
Dez Jones, Fr., WR: 25 rec. for 375 yards and 1 TD
Jake Kucera, Jr., TE: 19 rec. for 198 yards and 5 TDs
Anthony Almeida, Jr., RB: 71 carries for 381 yards and 3 TDs; 18 rec. for 169 yards and 4 TDs.
Chris Chasia, Sr., LB: 68 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 11 TFL
Nevin Earl, Sr., DL: 39 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 10 TFL, 2 FF
Jeff Lopez, Jr., DB: 39 tackles, 3 INTs, 2 FR
On Friday night under the bright lights of an NFL stadium, Red Bank Catholic will take the field with a chance to earn the program's fourth state championship in program history. In order to do so, the Caseys will have to take down a perennial juggernaut that plays one of the state's most challenging schedules and is ranked No. 4 in New Jersey.
The RBC vs. DePaul matchup at MetLife Stadium in the NJSIAA Non-Public B state championship game will feature two teams that have combined to win six state titles in the last eight years (seven postseasons, no playoffs in 2020).
We'll start with DePaul, which completes in the tough United White Division of the vaunted North Jersey Super Football Conference. The Spartans won that division with a 3-0 record vs. St. Joseph (Montvale), Delbarton, and Pope John. They also played four crossover games with teams in the United Red, going 2-2 with wins over Paramus Catholic (40-7) and Seton Hall Prep (20-6) and losses to St. Peter's Prep (10-7) and Don Bosco Prep (17-14). Losses are losses, but DePaul has lost both its games by a combined six points. They also own a 21-0 win over North 2, Group 4 champion Irvington, which won the title with a 28-13 victory over Middletown South.
From a purely statistical standpoint, both teams are very similar at first glance. DePaul is led by senior quarterback AJ Rodriguez, who has thrown for 1,690 yards and 18 touchdowns and rushed for 423 yards and four touchdowns. The backfield has been a by-committee approach with senior Tyler Brown owning a team-high 502 yards and four touchdowns and junior Anthony Almeida adding 381 yards and three touchdowns.
The same can't be said for the Spartans' wide receivers. They have one of the state's very best wideouts in senior Marshawn Ferguson, who has torched opposing defenses to the tune of 46 receptions for 756 yards and eight touchdowns. RBC has a very underrated cover corner in senior Joe Diorio so it will be interesting to see what the Caseys' plan is to defend Ferguson.
While Ferguson leads the way in the passing game, Rodriguez does spread it out with five other plays having at least 10 receptions. Junior tight end Jake Kucera has been a big-time red zone threat with 19 receptions for 198 yards and five touchdown catches.
Unsurprisingly, DePaul also plays some pretty good defense and has several standouts on that side of the ball, but the one to watch out for is senior edge Q'Yaeir Price. The Rutgers commit has been a monster this season with 14.5 sacks and a whopping 35 tackles for loss. He is a game-wrecker who can single-handily destroy an opposing offense's chances by dominating up front, and it will be on RBC to make sure that doesn't happen.
For Red Bank Catholic, Friday is not only a chance to win another championship but also to show it can compete with the North Jersey powerhouses.
Senior quarterback Alex Brown has had a great season with 1,688 yards passing, 21 touchdowns, and just two interceptions, plus 455 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. He has also authored an inspirational story following the passing of his mother Michelle just before the playoffs began. He has 10 total touchdowns in RBC's two playoff wins and certainly looks like a man of destiny at the moment.
The numbers show that Brown is dual-threat at quarterback, and one trait that has led to his rushing totals is his fantastic escapability. Many times this season he has turned a would-be sack into a long gain and he might need to do that again vs. DePaul's pass rush.
Surrounding Brown is a great group of skill players. Senior Alex Bauman is a two-way force and presents a big-time matchup issue at tight end where he's caught 24 passes for 413 yards and six touchdowns. At wide receiver, junior Najih Rahman is a precise route runner who can move the chains as well as get behind the defense for a big play. He enters with 30 receptions for 483 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Emanuel Ross has 15 catches for 283 yards and five touchdowns while junior Robert Stolfa and senior Jaidin Haynes can also make plays in the passing game.
RBC's ground game is also formidable with four players leading the way. Junior Sabino Portella is the team's leading rusher with 791 yards and nine touchdowns, junior Torin Harmon has rushed for 557 yards and three touchdowns on an average of 11.4 yards per carry, senior Rajahn Cooper has 477 yards and five touchdowns, and Brown has 455 yards and nine touchdowns.
Red Bank Catholic is strong up front but the offensive line will have to be up to the challenge against a DePaul front that has seen some of the state's best this season.
On defense, it's many of the same names leading the way for the Caseys, including Bauman at defensive end, Cooper at linebacker, and Portella in the secondary. Sophomore linebacker Davin Brewton has also had an excellent season and senior defensive Ryan McPherson has given opposing offenses another rusher to worry about on the opposite end from Bauman.
Can Red Bank Catholic win this game? Absolutely. But the Caseys will need to play their best game of the season. RBC has some good wins on its schedule and actually has a higher strength of schedule rating than DePaul, but there's something different about the grind of DePaul's schedule. The Caseys are the underdog, certainly, but that means little when the ball hits the air on the opening kickoff.
The pick: Red Bank Catholic, 17-14