Friday September 12, 2008, 8:19 PM
Bergen Catholic, No. 6 in The Star-Ledger Top 20, is implementing a new offense and defense this season, and the squad from Oradell came through for coach Fred Stengel with a 27-6 victory over Southington of Connecticut last night at the Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium.
Bergen Catholic (1-0) switched to a spread offense to take advantage of its skilled position players and went from a 4-4 to a 4-3 defense because of a talented secondary and linebacking unit. It made the changes to compete more closely with Don Bosco Prep, winner of The Star-Ledger Top 20 Trophy as the state's No. 1 team the last two years.
"I had an opportunity to hire two great assistants, Tom Falato (a former head coach at Ridge) as my offensive coordinator and Mike Katz as my defensive coach. And I changed both the offense and defense," Stengel said. "Also, because of my personnel, I have more secondary and linebacker type kids and skilled players on offense. I went to my strengths. Did I do that to close the gap with Don Bosco? One hundred percent."
Stengel said when he had to debut his new offense in the rain he was concerned.
"But I was very pleased with the way the offense played under the conditions," Stengel said. "I wasn't happy with the defense in the first half, we missed a lot of tackles and that helped them score. But we did better in the second half."
Southington was 9-2 last year and lost in the semifinals of the LL playoffs, the largest public-school division in Connecticut.
Running back Nick Gerst carried 26 times for 176 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Rob Eckrote completed eight of 15 passes for 103 yards and ran for two scores for Bergen Catholic.
"This was a start," Stengel said. "We're still a work in progress and have a lot to do."
Southington scored on the opening drive of the game as it marched 78 yards on 14 plays with quarterback Josh Lamson throwing a 2-yard TD strike to Ryan Borawski. The kick was blocked.
Bergen Catholic came right back as Anthony Marino took the kickoff and raced 20 yards to the Southington 44. Five plays later, Gerst ran 17 yards for a score and Zack Kovalovsky's kick gave the Oradell team the lead for keeps, 7-6, with 3:08 left in the first quarter.
Bergen Catholic forged a 14-6 lead with 9:52 remaining in the second quarter. Runs of 32 and 26 yards by Gerst advanced the ball to the Southington 2, from where Eckrote sneaked over.
Bergen Catholic made it 20-6 at the intermission. The Southington punter went back to kick and, on a low snap, his knee touched the ground, presenting Bergen Catholic with the ball on the Southington 16. From the 9, Gerst went over left tackle for the touchdown. The kick failed.
Bergen Catholic scored its final touchdown with 6:33 left in the game, going 57 yards in 10 plays. Passes of 14 and 18 yards to Tanner McEvoy and Marino helped push the ball to the 4. After a run by Gerst, Eckrote punched it in from the 1.
1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final
Bergen Catholic (1-0) 7 13 0 7 27
Southington (Conn.) (0-1) 6 0 0 0 6
Southington (Conn.): Borawski 2 pass from Lamson (kick failed)Bergen Catholic: Gerst 17 run (Kovalovski kick)
Bergen Catholic: Eckrote, Rob 2 run (Kovalovsky, Zack kick)Bergen Catholic: Gerst 9 run (kick failed)
Bergen Catholic: Eckrote, Rob 1 run (Kovalovsky, Zack kick) Southington (Conn.) Bergen Catholic