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October 15, 2011
Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
It's a rarity when a team is nationally ranked on the strength of its two losses - especially a team from a non-power state - but such was the case for the current No. 91 team, Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic.
The youthful Crusaders had climbed into the national rankings based on their performance in losses on the road against now-No. 84 Tampa (Fla.) Plant, 12-7, and for leading current-No. 1 Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco, 22-21, in the fourth quarter before falling, 33-22.
But now, after a commanding 30-17 victory over the Garden State's No. 3-ranked team, Montvale (N.J.) St. Joe's Regional, Bergen Catholic has a celebrated victory to put on its resume.
"It was a good game," junior receiver John Tsimis said in a phone interview after the game. "We ran it a lot more than usual, but we worked on that all week in practice."
A week after setting a school record for pass completions (24) and passing yards (355) in a 48-32 win over Washington (D.C.) Friendship Collegiate, Bergen pounded the football all day in a game that lasted a little over two hours in real time.
It ran the ball 21 times in the first half; throwing only four.
"We wanted to establish the run," Tsimis said. "And then we hit a couple big passes that we were able to score on."
Both of those big passes were to Tsimis.
His 25-yard touchdown late in the first half put Bergen Catholic up 10-0. He followed that with an amazing over-the-shoulder 36-yard reception in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 24-10.
"(Jonathan) Germano threw a great ball," Tsimis said. "It is his first year at quarterback and he is getting better each game."
Indeed. Germano was listed on the preseason depth chart as a running back and a defensive back, but with the help of second-year coach Nunzio Campanile, who has sent his last five quarterbacks to Division I colleges, he has developed well.
On the season, Germano has thrown 18 touchdowns. Eight of them have been to Tsimis, who now owns the school's record for touchdown receptions as a junior with at least four (and up to six) games to play.
"He is an All-State receiver," sophomore defensive lineman Garrett Dickerson told RivalsHigh over the phone after the contest. "He runs great routes and has great hands. I don't know if there is a receiver in the state that is better than him."
It was a group effort that held the Green Knights in check all game.
"We wanted to knock them off the ball," Dickerson said. "We knew if we could take away the run, we could beat them. We were able to manhandle them."
Part of the dominance was due in large part to Dickerson himself.
After the Tsimis touchdown pushed the game to a two-score differential, the defensive lineman intercepted an attempted swing pass and scored a game-sealing touchdown.
"The interception was a game-changer," Dickerson said. "When they got down two scores, we knew they would have to throw more to get back into it. I just was there to make the play.
"It was my first varsity touchdown."
While the 6-3 defensive end may not have too many more touchdowns from his current position, his sack on the following possession will be a total he can add to.
"At that point, we were pinned back," he said. "The entire defensive line was looking to get pressure and their quarterback broke contain, but I was able to make the play and run him down.
"We played well as a defense today. It was a great performance all around."
It was the type of performance that has the expectation level on the rise for the young team - one in which most of the star players are underclassmen.
"Our ultimate goal is a state title," Tsimis said. "We know what that means."
So does everyone else: beating a Don Bosco team that has owned the rivalry recently.
It is a victory that Tsimis thinks this team has in it.
"We have to work hard every day," he said. "We can't have a wasted snap in practice or on game day."