Thunder and Lightning: No. 3 Donovan Catholic Showcases Power and Speed in Overwhelming Win over No. 5 Colts Neck
COLTS NECK – Donovan Catholic’s combination of power and speed was simply too much for Colts Neck on Saturday afternoon.
Senior quarterback Jalin Butler and senior wide receiver Kyree Drake accounted for three touchdowns each and senior running back Nunes Bukula IV ran for a career-high 230 yards and a touchdown as the Griffins, ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, overwhelmed No. 5 Colts Neck, 35-0, in an American Division showdown.
Drake had a 10-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep, an 80-yard touchdown on a screen pass, and a 1-yard touchdown reception on a shovel pass to finish with 114 scrimmage yards and three scores. Butler threw for 155 yards and the two touchdowns to Drake and also ran for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Bukula, who saw limited carries as a junior with 2020 SSN Offensive Player of the Year Jahdir Loftland ahead of him on the depth chart, was Donovan’s workhorse on Saturday with career highs in both carries (20) and yards, averaging 11.5 yards per rush.
Defensively, Donovan shut down Colts Neck’s running game and was all over senior quarterback Tommy Fallon any time he dropped back to pass. The Griffins sacked him four times, held him to 4 of 13 passing, and limited Colts Neck to just 61 yards of offense.
It all added up to Donovan Catholic’s most complete performance of the season and furthered the line of delineation between the Shore’s elite teams and everybody else.
“I thought we played our most crisp offensive game,” said Donovan Catholic head coach Dan Curcione. “In the run game, Nunes ran the ball really well today. We played a completed game altogether, an awesome team victory.”
“We’re getting in our grove,” Bukula said. “It took a couple games but I feel like we’re getting there.”
Donovan’s edge in the speed department was obvious coming into the game. Physicality, however, looked even across the board. Colts Neck’s anchor is a big, physical group along both the offensive and defensive lines, and Donovan also has several standouts in the trenches. It was big on big, strength of strength, and the Griffins made a major statement about their ability to control the line of scrimmage.
Donovan rushed for 362 yards on an average of nine yards per attempt and held Colts Neck to just 33 yards on the ground. Curcione didn’t straight-up challenge his big men during the week of practice, but the matchup along the lines was certainly a point of emphasis.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t talk about that during the week,” Curcione said. “We talked about that they were big and physical and very well-coached. We stressed it during the week and the kids really responded. We’ve said all along that’s a group we have to lean on. They had their best week of practice and I think they came out and played their best game.”
“It always starts with the line first,” Bukula said. “Taz, Rob, Nico, EJ, Crooms; we had a great gameplan against a great team and it was a great job executing.”
Donovan’s defense set the tone immediately when Mysun Rush-Esdaile came free on a safety blitz to sack Fallon on third down and force a three-and-out on the game’s opening possession. From there, the Griffins marched 78 yards in seven plays. Bukula did the heavy lifting with four carries for 56 yards before Drake took a jet sweep into the end zone from 10 yards out for a quick 7-0 lead.
After forcing another three-and-out, it took the Griffins just one play to make it 14-0. Butler hit Drake on a wide receiver screen and the senior speedster did the rest on an 80-yard score.
Colts Neck was able to gain a pair of first downs on its next drive but a sack by Louis Dibiase on third and long forced the Cougars to punt again.
Starting at their own 5-yard line after a great punt by Fallon, Donovan put together a massive 17-play, 95-yard scoring drive that chewed nearly eight minutes off the clock. Bukula had eight carries for 71 yards on the drive before Drake finished it off with a 1-yard score on a shovel pass.
“Nunes is a big, physical guy and with the way our line was blocking today it was going to be tough, he was going to wear people down,” Curcione said. “And that’s his game, to continue to pound. I tell him all the time, three- and four-yard runs are very good because eventually they're going to turn into 10 and 15 if he keeps imposing his will as a big, tough runner.”
Bukula nearly made it 28-0 on the final play of the half when he took a handoff with a few seconds left and weaved his way down to the Colts Neck 5-yard line on a 53-yard run.
“I saw they backed up and I knew it was going to have room to run,” Bukula said. “I guess I kind of ran out of gas.”
It was more of the same in the second half. The Griffins opened the third quarter with a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive to take a 28-0 lead. The big play came on fourth and nine from the Colts Neck 34-yard line when Rush-Esdaile made a great catch at the 2-yard line to move the chains and set up Butler’s short touchdown run.
Bukula put the finishing touches on his career day on the Griffins’ next series, scoring on a 17-yard run to give Donovan a 35-0 lead and put the mercy-rule running clock in motion.
Donovan will still need some help if it hopes to claim the American Division title, but the Griffins have rebounded nicely from their 14-0 loss to No. 1 Rumson-Fair Haven in Week 2 with convincing wins over Toms River North and Colts Neck. They have embraced the challenge of competing against the Shore Conference’s best.
“The kids all along wanted this challenge and I’m not just talking about this group, the years before, we wanted to be in the top group,” Curcione said. “We want to play these games, we want to play the best. It makes you better, win or lose. The kids want to prove they’re one of the top teams in the conference.”
No. 3 Donovan Catholic 35, No. 5 Colts Neck 0
|Donovan Catholic||Colts Neck|
|Donovan (3-1 ,2-1)||14||7||14||0||35|
|Colts Neck (2-1, 1-1)||0||0||0||0||0|
Kyree Drake 10-yard run (Gavin Nguyen kick)
Kyree Drake 80-yard pass from Jalin Butler (Gavin Nguyen kick)
Kyree Drake 1-yard pass from Jalin Butler (Gavin Nguyen kick)
Jalin Butler 2-yard run (Gavin Nguyen kick)
Nunes Bukula IV 17-yard run (Gavin Nguyen kick)
RUSHING – DC: Nunes Bukula IV 20-230, Jalin Butler 8-82, Kyree Drake 3-26, Michael Thomas 2-7, Gaige Rebmann 3-11, Anthony Perrelli 2-10, Zaeir Day 1-2, Team 1-(-6); CN: John Manos 11-30, Tommy Fallon 10-8, Team 1-(-5).
PASSING – DC: Jalin Butler 8-11-0 155; CN: Tommy Fallon 4-13-0 28.
RECEIVING – DC: Kyree Drake 5-88, Levi Wilkins 2-35, Mysun Rush-Esdaile 1-32; CN: Aiden Diaz 2-14, John Manos 1-9, John Runfolo 1-5.