RED BANK - Red Bank Catholic head coach Jim Portela was as curious as everyone else to see how the Caseys would fare in stepping up a notch in competition after a dominant regular season when they faced Immaculata in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group III playoffs on Friday night.

"I was wondering, too,'' Portela said. "We answered the bell."

The fourth-seeded Caseys faced a rare bit of adversity when the Spartans scored on a flea-flicker on the first play from scrimmage in the game, and RBC responded by rattling off 42 unanswered points on its way to a 42-14 win at Count Basie Field. RBC (9-0) will travel to top-seeded St. Joseph-Montvale, the No. 1 team in the state and a top-five team in the country, for the semifinals next Saturday.

"I knew we had it in us,'' said senior defensive end Shawn McCord. "I think that people underestimated us because of our schedule, but we don't choose our schedule. We practice hard every week, whether we're going to play Monmouth or St. Joe's, and I think that helps us in the long run."

Red Bank Catholic senior tailback Larry Redaelli had 166 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns to help key a 42-14 win over Immaculata in the Non-Public Group III quarterfinals.
Red Bank Catholic senior tailback Larry Redaelli had 166 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns to help key a 42-14 win over Immaculata in the Non-Public Group III quarterfinals.

Any questions about how RBC's imposing offensive line would fare against a high-caliber opponent were answered emphatically, as the Caseys rolled up 276 yards on the ground, led by 166 yards and two touchdowns from senior tailback Larry Redaelli on 24 carries. The Caseys also set the single-season school record for total points by pushing their tally to 427 in nine games (47.4 per game).

"What helps is having an offensive line that blocks and executes as well as we do, and that settled us right in the game,'' Portela said. "We got into the flow, and once we got that first one, I think we got our feet under us."

"We're just really working well as an offensive line and just driving their D-linemen into their linebackers and getting great pushes,'' said Notre Dame-bound senior lineman Quenton Nelson. "After the flea-flicker, I figured they can have one big play against us, but we're going to drive it down their throat the whole game."

The fifth-seeded Spartans (6-4) generated immediate momentum by returning the opening kickoff to RBC's 38-yard line. One play later, senior quarterback I'zjaier Sanders lofted a 38-yard touchdown pass on a flea-flicker play to junior wideout Ibn Bailey for a 7-0 lead just 21 seconds into the game.

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"That flea-flicker play, that really woke us up,'' Redaelli said. "We came right back and drove down the field. We just had to answer the bell."

The Caseys didn't panic after being down for only the second time this season, instead going to work with the running game. Junior offensive lineman Ryan Kroeger pancaked a defender on their first play to set the tone for a six-play, 67-yard drive highlighted by a 22-yard run on third down by senior quarterback Pat Toomey to move the chains and a 27-yard touchdown pass from Toomey to senior wideout Connor Smith to tie the game.

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"We stayed focused and just came right back at them,'' said junior linebacker/defensive end Jamie Gordinier.

On Immaculata's ensuing possession, McCord sacked Sanders for a 12-yard loss for the first of his three sacks in the win to go with another tackle for a loss.

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The Caseys forced a three-and-out, and then only took three plays to take a 14-7 lead when Redaelli scored on an 18-yard run with 4:52 left in the first quarter.

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The Caseys came up with another defensive stop to help set up a six-play, 82-yard drive. Redaelli had a 58-yard touchdown called back for a personal foul penalty, and on the next play, junior tailback Mike Cordova ripped off a 67-yard touchdown run. He got a great lead block from senior fullback Frank Olmo and took off for a 21-7 advantage with 10:52 left in the second quarter.

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The score would remain that way at the half, as McCord and Gordinier (12 tackles) had sacks to kill one Immaculata drive and Olmo had an interception that thwarted another possession. Immaculata entered averaging 215 yards rushing per game, and RBC held the Spartans to 21 yards on 33 attempts.

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"I think overall our defensive line is dominant,'' McCord said. "We work very hard. I think we have one of the best pass rushes around."

RBC then took a commanding lead to start the third quarter when sophomore Dylan Murphy returned the opening kickoff of the half for an 82-yard touchdown and a 28-7 lead.

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The Caseys ended any suspense on their next possession with an 11-play, 51-yard drive that was capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by Redaelli for a 35-7 lead with 2:37 left in the third quarter after his Shore Conference-leading 25th touchdown of the season. Olmo tacked on a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to cap the win.

Now comes the biggest challenge of the season, as the Caseys travel north to face a St. Joe's team that beat them 42-7 in last year's semifinals. Much of RBC's starting lineup returned this season from that game, so they know what type of atmosphere and talent level they are dealing with.

"We got a lot of weight on our shoulders,'' Portela said. "We're carrying the torch for a lot of people. It's going to be David vs. Goliath next week, and we're looking forward to it. It helps to have playoff experience, but nothing prepares you for St. Joe's-Montvale. You've got to go up there and you've got to play really hard and play well because you know they will. That's what we're going to try and do, and we'll see what happens."

"We're going to have to play a perfect game against St. Joe's, but I can't wait for next Saturday,'' Nelson said.

Box score

Red Bank Catholic 42, Immaculata 14

.                                          R                  I

First downs                      15                13

Rushes-yards               36-276          33-21

Passing                         5-7-0             9-14-1

Passing yards                75                 204

Fumbles-lost                0-0                  4-0

Penalties                       5-55                4-35

Immaculata (6-4)    7   0  0  7  - 14

RB Catholic (9-0)  14 7 14 7 - 42

Scoring summary

I: Bailey 38-yard pass from Sanders (Szymanski kick).

R: Smith 27-yard pass from Toomey (Toomey kick).

R: Redaelli 18-yard run (Toomey kick).

R: Cordova 67-yard run (Toomey kick).

R: Murphy 82-yard kickoff return (Toomey kick)

R: Redaelli 2-yard run (Toomey kick).

R: Olmo 1-yard run (Toomey kick).

I: Ch. Vanderbeek 15-yard pass from Sanders (Szymanski kick).

Individual statistics

Rushing - R: Redaelli 24-166, Cordova 2-73, Toomey 3-26, Olmo 2-1, Hahn 2-4, Murphy 3-7. I: Co. Vanderbeek 8-25, Sanders 6-(-40), Ch. Vanderbeek 13-19, Szymanski 1-1, Falgiano 2-4, Fama 3-12.

Passing - R: Toomey 5-7-0 75. I: Sanders 8-12-1 187, Fama 1-2-0 17.

Receiving - R: Smith 2-33, Redaelli 1-18, Olmo 2-24. I: Bailey 3-57, Ch. Vanderbeek 5-143, Riccadonna 1-4.

Interceptions - R: Olmo 1-0.