Ronnie Hickman turning the corner for DePaul in its 42-17 win over Don Bosco Prep on Friday night in Wayne.
WAYNE -- In a battle of high-profile Non-Public programs on Friday night, Don Bosco Prep (1-2) visited DePaul (1-1) with the home team, fresh off a bye, trying to change the trends of its recent history. The last time DePaul beat Bosco was in 2013, the same season in which the Spartans beat two teams in the same season from the ‘Big Six’ or two NJSFC-United Red Division teams.
If there has been a perceived weakness that DePaul was supposed to be covering up, it was a lack of depth, but that was not the case on Friday night as the Spartans played inspired football on both sides of the ball and won the battle in the trenches from start to finish in a 42-17 victory in Wayne.
DePaul gained control of the game early and moved out to a 20-7 lead at halftime on the arm and legs of junior quarterback Ta'Quan Roberson. He threw two touchdown passes, the first a seven-yarder to Manny Oliver for a 7-0 lead with 2:46 left in opening quarter and his second was a 44-yard pass to Teddy Harper with 4:49 left in the first half.
Roberson is the complete package.
"He checks all the boxes,” said DePaul offensive coordinator Nick Campanile. “He has everything you look for in a QB and he has a 3.4 GPA in school."
QB Ta'Quan Roberson led DePaul to 20 straight points to finish the game as the Spartans pulled away in the fourth quarter.
In between Roberson’s two scoring throws, senior running back Chase Hebron had a six-yard touchdown run. Ironmen kept the game close with a second quarter touchdown on a 38-yard run by senior Tommy Courtney to make it 13-7 with 6:22 left in the second quarter.
Well-rested and well-prepared after having last week off, DePaul Spartans was the fresher team. They were full of confidence after beating Paramus Catholic convincingly, 35-14, two weeks ago while Don Bosco was coming in off 27-0 loss in Maryland to St Francis Academy last Saturday.
The Ironmen went three-and-out on the first possession of the second half and it looked like Spartans were ready to seal the game on their next drive. Bosco did not allow that to happen as Kevin Brennan intercepted a Roberson pass and raced untouched for a 44-yard ‘Pick 6’ to make the score 20-14.
The Ironmen then held the Spartans to a three-and-out, which led to the play of the game as the Spartans used the wind and a friendly roll on the ensuing punt. Chazz Bryant downed the ball at the Bosco one yard line. The Ironmen tried to run it out of their end zone with a hand off to Jalen Berger four yards deep, but the Spartans' defense, led by Vinnie DePalma, swarmed Burger before he could get back over the goal line. Now the momentum was back with the Spartans as they took a 22-14 lead with 4:30 left in third quarter.
Vinnie DePalma and DePaul will host Hudson Catholic next weekend.
"Huge play,” said Campanile of the safety. “I do not think we win this game without the play by Chaz Bryant. The tide turned on that play."
Bosco narrowed its deficit to 22-17 with 11:12 left in fourth quarter on Brandon Marreo 25-yard field goal, but those were the last points that Bosco could manage and the Spartans went on to score 20 unanswered points in the final quarter.
The next big play for the Spartans came from their "heart and soul," DePalma, the running back/linebacker, In their heavy package run formation on third-and-1 from the Bosco 46, DePalma followed his blockers, who made a nice hole through the left side of the defensive line and he out raced a defensive back into the end zone for 29-14 lead with 9:01 left in the game and the Spartans never looked back.
"He is the hardest working guy on the team,” said Campanile, speaking of DePalma. ”He never has an off day. He sets the tone for the team."
“The last couple of weeks I was getting tripped up. Instead of a 40-yard play, it would only be a 5 yard play,” said DePalma. “I worked in practice on lifting my legs, running hard."
On the next Ironmen series, they moved quickly deep into Spartans territory, but senior defensive back Ronny Hickman picked off Bosco QB Jacqui Batts on the Depaul 16 and zig-zagged through the Ironmen for an 84-yard ‘Pick 6’ with 7:23 to go in the game for a 35-17 lead. DePalma iced it with a determined seven-yard touchdown run at 3:51 for the final score.
"If we want to be one of the Big Boys we needed to win this game,” said DePalma. “We know we have the talent. Last year we took our lumps."
DePaul has Hudson Catholic at home next Saturday (9/29) prior to visiting St Peter's Prep for another Big Six showdown on 10/6 in Jersey City. Don Bosco has Delbarton at home next Saturday 9/29, prior to visiting rival St. Joseph Regional in Montvale on 10/7.