BY MARK TRIBLE
Glory Days Football Writer
BUENA VISTA — Through the tears of heartbreak on this frigid night, those in navy blue didn’t want any mention of moral victories or “close enough.”
In the Non-Public Group A semifinals, second-seeded St. Augustine kept on the hip of sixth-slotted Don Bosco all night. But a long touchdown pass on a late third-quarter second down proved the backbreaker as the Ironmen took a 17-0 lead to a berth to the championship game.
That 75-yard connection from Nicholas Minicucci to Omare Walker down the right sideline came at the spot of the game where most everyone in attendance realized a big play would swing the result.
The Hermits (9-2) had punted on a 4th-and-short just a few snaps prior. Either another defensive stand would lock in a short field or Bosco (8-4) would find its drive of definition.
Those visitors in maroon and white snagged it.
“That’s a great football team right there, you know,” senior lineman Brady Small said. “I wish them nothing but the best.
“But, you know, we just didn’t get the job done today. Couple turnovers (on downs) cost us, couple fourth downs we didn’t get. I still love my guys. It’s not the outcome that we want.”
Bosco, large in stature and quantity, tacked on a touchdown pass in the final stanza to round out the tallies. It led 3-0 at halftime on the strength of Jack Donnelly’s 30-yard field goal. A long field goal attempt for Prep late in the second quarter fell just short.
So that’s where it stood when everything hung in the balance. Try as they might, the Hermits just couldn’t quite manage to continue to move the chains. On their first possession of the second half, they were stopped on 4th-and-inches. That led to a punt the next time they had the ball and facing a similar decision.
“We just didn’t sustain offensively,” coach Pete Lancetta said. “We didn’t convert on third downs. Typically we’re converting those and we didn’t.
“We didn’t pass protect well. Offense didn’t do a good job today. We tried, we did, but you know when you don’t sustain things and don’t pass protect it’s tough. Kudos to them, they’re a great football team.”
All told, St. Augustine finished with 142 yards — 106 on 41 carries and another 36 through the air. The Ironmen finished with 257.
While the effort came up short, the Hermits — assuredly the No. 1 team in South Jersey — got to reflect on a special senior class.
Small will play at Army. Denis Jaquez, at Northwestern. Gavin Kennedy to Bucknell. Nasir Hill will suit up at Princeton. Kanye Udoh has a number of scholarship offers. Kenny Selby to Sacred Heart. Trey McLeer recently committed to St. Francis.
“These kids are my brothers from different mothers,” Small said. “I’m with them all the time … I love them to death.
“I’ll do anything for them and they know that. There’s a bunch of talent in this ’22 class and a bunch of talent below them to lead the legacy at Prep.”
Lancetta praised his upperclassmen group.
“They were one of the greatest bunch of leaders of any seniors I’ve ever had,” he said. “They’ll rank right up there.
“They led by example. Their actions, when necessary, they spoke up when they had to — that’s just the way they were. The way they handled themselves, the whole thing. It was great, great leadership from the senior class.”
Mark Trible covers high school football for Glory Days Magazine. Check out his weekly Facebook Live show every Wednesday at 7 p.m. The South Jersey Football Frenzy Show can be seen at facebook.com/acglorydays. You can also take in Mark’s “Hat’s Off” podcast every Sunday at 9 a.m. at our Facebook page.