Christian Palmer’s 394 Yards of Offense Lead Mater Dei’s Blowout of Morristown-Beard
MORRISTOWN — With a trip to the sectional semifinals on the line, Mater Dei Prep turned in its most complete performance of the season.
Led by another monster game from senior quarterback Christian Palmer, the fifth-seeded Seraphs went on the road and walloped fourth-seeded Morristown-Beard, 48-0, in the first round of the NJSIAA Non-Public Group I playoffs on Saturday afternoon. Palmer accounted for 394 total yards and six touchdowns to continue his incredible season, and the Seraphs won their eighth game to tie the school record for wins in a season.
“It’s a great indicator of not necessarily the talent, but the hard work this team has put in,” said Mater Dei head coach Steve Sciarappa.
“We played well in all three aspects today,” Palmer said. “The coaches challenged the defense to get the shutout and that’s exactly what they did.”
Palmer finished with 256 yards and four touchdowns on 9-of-19 passing while carrying 11 times for 138 yards and two touchdowns. He now has 41 total touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards of total offense for the 8-2 Seraphs. He threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Eddie Lewis, a 78-yard score to senior Tysaun White and saw senior Tyson Stamper take screen passes of 69 and 23 yards to the house in the second quarter. He had a 40-yard touchdown run and a two-yard score that was set up by his own 85-yard run in the first half.
“I would say by the end of August we stopped being surprised (by Christian),” Sciarappa said. “We see it in practice every day. We come in with very limited stuff for him and he does a great job of making something out of nothing. He’s just going to keep grinding, and that’s where he never ceases to amaze me. He started a little slow but just kept fighting through until he found a rhythm.”
“These are my brothers and I wouldn’t want to be on the field with anyone else,” Palmer said. “Our mentality is, when the question is how many points do you need, the answer is always more. You can’t take your foot off the pedal.”
Mater Dei’s defense stifled the Crimson (6-4) and their Delaware Wing-T attack in recording their second shutout of the season. The Seraphs held Morristown-Beard to 166 yards of offense, including just 104 rushing on 37 attempts (2.8 yards per carry). The signature moment came early in the second quarter when they stopped the Crimson on three straight plays from the one-yard line to keep them out of the end zone.
“We had been talking all offseason that to take it to the next level it has to be with defense,” Sciarappa said. “It has been our Achilles' heel, but coach (Shannon) Hoadley and the defensive staff has done a great job all year. To compete for a championship you have to have a great defense."
Palmer and the Seraphs offense started slow, but once they got into a groove the touchdowns just kept coming. Mater Dei went up 6-0 when Palmer hit Lewis down the seam for a 49-yard score on fourth-and-nine midway through the first quarter. Palmer was intercepted for just the seventh time this season on Mater Dei’s next drive, but the defense rose up to stop Morristown-Beard inside the 10-yard line on an interception by sophomore linebacker John Lubintus.
On the first play after Mater Dei took over possession, Palmer ran an option keeper and raced down the home sideline for an 85-yard gain down to the five-yard line. Two plays later, Palmer plunged in from two yards out to make it 12-0.
Then came the goal line stand, which thwarted a 13-play drive and brought back memories of last season’s goal line stand that preserved a 12-7 victory on the same field. Mater Dei would then go on to score twice in the final 1:14 of the first half to take a commanding lead. On the first play after getting the ball back late in the half, a perfectly timed screen pass went for a 69-yard touchdown to Stamper. Palmer ran in the two-point conversion for a 20-0 lead.
Down by three scores, the Crimson came out throwing in hopes of mounting a late drive. Instead, White intercepted Beard quarterback Colin Waters to set up another score before halftime. Palmer connected with senior tight end Jason Mandile for 17 yards down to the Crimson 23, and on the final play of the half Stamper took another middle screen for a 23-yard touchdown and a 26-0 lead.
“Screen is one of those classic beater plays to take advantage, and our coaches up in the booth made the call and we were able to capitalize,” Sciarappa said.
“We have a lot of people on the team that when they get their hands on the ball they can score,” Palmer said. “It doesn’t always have to be a bomb. Just get them the ball and they do crazy things.”
Mater Dei’s lead ballooned to 34-0 late in the third quarter after the defense stopped the Crimson on fourth down at the 19-yard line. On second down from the 22, Palmer launched a pass to a wide-open White, who spun off a tackle and sprinted for a 78-yard touchdown. After a three-and-out by Beard, Palmer needed just two plays to make it 42-0, taking a second-down run for a 40-yard touchdown. White ran in the two-point conversion.
Senior running back Zach Bragg added an 11-yard touchdown run to make it 48-0.
The challenge gets considerably higher next weekend as the Seraphs try to reach a sectional final for the first time since 1999. Top-seeded juggernaut St. Joseph-Hammonton (9-0) awaits the Seraphs in the semifinals, and the Wildcats are no ordinary Group I team. The South Jersey powerhouse has won the last five Non-Public Group I titles, and its postseason numbers are staggering: 35 playoff appearances, 31 finals appearances, 23 state titles and a 41-12 playoff record.
“St. Joe’s is a fantastic program and the bar of excellence,” Sciarappa said. “When you’re playing St. Joe’s you’re playing years of tradition and expectations. They’re the role model for us moving forward. If we want to compete with them we have to stick to our gameplan and not beat ourselves; do what we do.”
“It’s a football game, man,” Palmer said. “It’s win or go home, and that’s it.”
5-Mater Dei Prep 48, 4-Morristown-Beard 0
|Mater Dei Prep||Morristown-Beard|
Mater Dei Prep (8-2) 12 14 8 14 – 48
Morristown-Beard (6-4) 0 0 0 0 – 0
Christian Palmer 49-yard pass to Eddie Lewis (run failed)
Christian Palmer 2-yard run (pass failed)
Christian Palmer 69-yard pass to Tyson Stamper (Christian Palmer run)
Christian Palmer 23-yard pass to Tyson Stamper (pass failed)
Christian Palmer 78-yard pass to Tysaun White (Christian Palmer run)
Christian Palmer 40-yard run (Tysaun White run)
Zach Bragg 11-yard run (run failed)
Rushing – MDP: Christian Palmer 11-138, Zach Bragg 4-43, Tysaun White 4-14, Tyson Stamper 1-1; MB: Nick Rella 15-44, Colin Waters 11-30, Tahj Valentine 4-16, Matt McFadden 7-14.
Passing – MDP: Christian Palmer 9-19-1 256; MB: Colin Waters 6-15-2 62.
Receiving – MDP: Tyson Stamper 2-92, Tysaun White 1-78, Eddie Lewis 5-72, Jason Mandile 1-17; MB: Dean Grogg 3-59, Nick Fazio 1-2, Nick Rella 2-1.
Interceptions – MDP: John Lubintus 1-3, Tysaun White 1-4; MB: Matt McFadden 1-17.