Johnny Football: Buchanan Leads No. 2 SJV past No. 3 RBC in Catholic Clash
RED BANK — Friday’s mega-matchup between No. 2 St. John Vianney and No. 3 Red Bank Catholic was lined up to be a statement game for someone, and after 48 minutes it was the Lancers who sent their message loud and clear.
Led by a virtuoso performance from senior Johnny Buchanan, St. John Vianney scored 21 unanswered points in the second half to walk away from Count Basie Field with an impressive 35-17 Shore Conference nondivisional victory and extend its Shore Conference winning streak to 36 games.
Buchanan, who two weeks ago verbally committed to the University of Delaware, was tremendous on both sides of the ball with 230 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 27 carries, double-digit tackles at linebacker, and a clutch interception deep in SJV territory late in the fourth quarter.
“We go game-by-game, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have RBC circled on my calendar,” Buchanan said. “It’ is the biggest rivalry game and it’s always fun to be able to come out and play those guys.
“This is a great win, and for some reason, we’re always underrated, so hopefully this will prove some things.”
Senior Zyaire Sterling added 97 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 10 carries, and senior quarterback Haaziq Daniels also ran for a touchdown as part of a 348-yard ground attack. St. John Vianney’s offensive line of C.J. Hanson, Dominick Spano, Paul Liseno, Donovan Reiser, Alex Larsen and Andrew McGimpsey won a high-profile battle in the trenches, which also limited Red Bank Catholic to 85 yards rushing.
“Against Rumson (last week, 31-28 OT win) they played awful and we weren’t happy,” said St. John Vianney head coach Derek Sininsky. Our offensive line coach, coach Wombough, challenged them. We put it on them. The way they played today is what we expect from them. This is their normal play.”
“I’m the running back so I see it firsthand, and my O-line, I couldn’t be more grateful to those guys,” Buchanan said. “They were opening up holes and making giant lanes for me to run through. And on defense, it was the same thing. They were getting a good push up front and allowing me to run free and make plays and a lot of tackles.”
Senior defensive end Nick Densieski also had a big game for the Lancers’ defense with three sacks.
Steve Lubischer threw for 214 yards and two touchdowns - a pair of 4-yard strikes to sophomore tight end Kevin Bauman - while junior Ryan O’Hara kicked a 33-yard field goal for Red Bank Catholic (6-1). The Caseys were dealt a major blow when senior running back Zack Bair limped off the field in the second quarter and did not return. Bair had ice on his ankle and was on crutches during the second half. He entered the game with 1,050 yards rushing and 18 total touchdowns.
St. John Vianney also lost a key player during the game when senior wide receiver and defensive back A.J. Calabro suffered what is believed to be a broken arm.
Games like this aren’t won without a complete team effort, but it is undeniable that Buchanan provided the heartbeat for the Lancers in one of their biggest games of the season. He carried eight times for 49 yards and a touchdown on the opening possession of the game to stake the Lancers to a 7-0 lead, then ripped off a 44-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 just 7:43 into the game. Later he had a 52-yard run to set up a touchdown.
On defense he made his usual 10-plus tackles, made a thunderous hit on a middle screen to break up a pass, tracked down Lubischer on a quarterback run that could have gone for a touchdown and then came through with an interception on fourth down at the St. John Vianney 3-yard line.
“And he’s banged up too, he has a shoulder he can barely lift and everyone knows it, but he blocks it out,” Sininsky said. “He is very, very strong mentally. When he sets his mind to it he gets it done. He’s one of those great, special players, and that’s why he’s going to Delaware.”
“He loves the game, he truly loves the game,” Sininsky added. “He trains all year round for it and he’s always focused on football. Delaware is going to get that. Don’t be surprised - and I know he’s not 6-foot-4 - but do not be surprised if you see that kid one day playing special teams or linebacker in the NFL because he has that determination where he thinks ‘I’m going to do it’.”
“Johnny is definitely the rock on our team and we all look up to him,” Densieski said. “The grind that kid has; he’s the first one in the weight room and the last one out.”
After St. John Vianney (7-0) had taken a 14-0 lead, Red Bank Catholic made some stops to allow the Caseys to get on the scoreboard and eventually take a lead early in the third quarter.
It started with a seven-play, 39-yard drive midway through the second quarter that ended with O’Hara’s 33-yard field goal. After forcing a second straight St. John Vianney punt, Red Bank Catholic went 70 yards in just five plays to cut the deficit to 14-10 at halftime. Senior wide receiver Brandon Lombana, who had 118 yards on seven receptions, had a 23-yard catch, then a 35-yard reception to move to ball to the St. John Vianney 5-yard line. Two plays later, Lubischer hit the 6-foot-6 Bauman for the touchdown.
Red Bank Catholic received the second-half kickoff and marched 62 yards over 10 plays to take a 17-14 lead. With Bair out of the game, the majority of the offensive weight fell on Lubischer and the passing game, and the junior delivered with a 13-yard pass to Lombana, a 19-yard pass to Jaden Key and a 23-yard pass to Lombana to set up first-and-goal at the SJV 5-yard line. Two plays later, Lubischer connected with Bauman for another 4-yard touchdown to give RBC 17 straight points and its first lead of the game.
The ensuing drive was crucial for St. John Vianney, and the Lancers went back to basics for an important score that set the tone for the rest of the game.
SJV ran 14 consecutive running plays that spanned 79 yards and concluded with Daniels taking a keeper 17 yards for a touchdown. The score put the Lancers up 21-17 with 1:37 left in the third quarter, and it was a lead they would not relinquish.
“You saw the first two series, we knew we could pound the ball,” Sininsky said. “We got a little cute throwing the ball and had to punt three times in a row, and that slowed our momentum. At halftime, we had to adjust and we said, ‘listen, it’s not rocket science, run the ball’.”
Those adjustments translated to the defensive side, as well. The Lancers moved away from a zone look and went back to their 5-3, man-to-man defense, and from that point on St. John Vianney forced two punts and had an interception, and yielded just three first downs.
A sack by Densieski forced an RBC punt in the fourth quarter, and two plays into the next offensive series Sterling took a jet sweep 49 yards for a touchdown, putting the Lancers up 28-17 with 7:31 to play.
RBC still had time to mount a rally, and moved to the SJV 22-yard line following a 27-yard catch and run by Bauman. On third-and-15 from the 27, Lubischer got to the edge and scrambled for 11 yards. Buchanan made the tackle from behind, and if he didn’t Lubischer would have at least gained enough yards for the first down and possibly reached the end zone. On the next play, Buchanan jumped a route and picked off Lubischer’s pass intended for Bauman, returning it 30 yards out to the 33-yard line. Two plays later he ripped off a 52-yard run that led to Sterling’s 2-yard touchdown run to put the game away.
“They like that play and I know that the quarterback liked (Bauman) so I read it, and as soon as he dipped his shoulder I knew to break on the ball,” Buchanan said.
In the past two weeks St. John Vianney has defeated Rumson-Fair Haven and Red Bank Catholic to extend their Shore Conference winning streak to 36 games. Even though top-ranked Manalapan is undefeated and has done its part, St. John Vianney is making its case to be the No. 1 team in the Shore.
The Lancers admitted they felt slighted coming into the game and took out their frustrations the best way they knew how.
“The (state) rankings came out and we were behind Manalapan, RBC and Howell. That made us pissed off for greatness,” Densieski said. “We want to stop being doubted, but it gives us fire. We came out and showed we’re not to be messed with.”
No. 2 St. John Vianney 35, No. 3 Red Bank Catholic 17
|St. John Vianney||Red Bank Catholic|
St. John Vianney (7-0) 14 0 7 14 — 35
Red Bank Catholic (6-1) 0 10 7 0 — 17
SJV — Johnny Buchanan 4-yard run (Will Forman kick)
SJV — Johnny Buchanan 44-yard run (Will Forman kick)
RBC — Ryan O’Hara 33-yard field goal
RBC — Kevin Bauman 4-yard pass from Steve Lubischer (Ryan O’Hara kick)
RBC — Kevin Bauman 4-yard pass from Steve Lubischer (Ryan O’Hara kick)
SJV — Haaziq Daniels 17-yard run (Will Forman kick)
SJV — Zyaire Sterling 49-yard run (Will Forman kick)
SJV — Zyaire Sterling 2-yard run (Will Forman kick)
RUSHING — SJV: Johnny Buchanan 27-230, Zyaire Sterling 10-97, Haaziq Daniels 4-20, Warren Griffith 2-1, Josiah Walker 1-0, Team 1-(-1) A.J. Calabro 1-(-4); RBC: Zack Bair 8-36, Billy Guidetti 5-28, Steve Lubischer 11-21.
PASSING — SJV: Haaziq Daniels 2-7-0 26; RBC: Steve Lubischer 16-24-1 214
RECEIVING — SJV: Samuel East 1-15, A.J. Calabro 1-11; RBC: Brandon Lombana 7-118, Jaden Key 3-47, Kevin Bauman 5-43, M.J. Wright 1-11.
INTERCEPTIONS — SJV: Johnny Buchanan 1-30.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.