By Ryan Fennell
Morristown – The final score doesn’t say it all.
The Red Bank Catholic Caseys fell, 30-23, to second-seeded Delbarton in double-overtime last Saturday in the Central Jersey Non-Public Group III semifinals and were denied an opportunity for a chance at a state championship on December 3.
But an overtime loss and elimination from the playoffs is hardly what occurred on the field last Saturday.
The Caseys proved, in deed, the age-old adages that a team is never just one man and a game isn’t over until it’s over.
“We said it was going to take all 65 guys and that’s certainly the type of effort we tried to put forth today,” RBC head coach Jim Portela said.
The Caseys went three-and-out on their first possession and quickly trailed 7-0 after Delbarton scored in one play on a 75-yard touchdown run by Jamie White.
It seemed the Caseys would have their hands full the rest of the afternoon and suddenly it got much worse.
On its next possession RBC lost its starting running back, 1,500-yard rusher John DiStefano, who suffered a dislocated kneecap and needed to be helped off the field.
But, the Caseys’ offense didn’t stumble following DiStefano’s injury as senior quarterback Ryan Spahr drove the team 64-yards in three plays with passes to Greg Golden for 20-yards and 30-yards before hitting James Taylor for 15-yard touchdown pass to even the score at 7 after the PAT.
The remainder of the first half became a defensive battle with both teams trading punts until late in the second quarter when Delbarton managed a 32-yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead into the half.
Delbarton’s White struck again in the second half by going 47-yards in two carries of 10 and 37, respectively down to the RBC 13-yard line, but the RBC defense stiffened and stopped White on his next two carries to set up a 4th and 6 and force Delbarton to settle for a field goal.
Trailing by six, and without DiStefano, the Caseys handed the ball to sophomore running back Larry Redaelli.
Redaelli carried the Caseys from their own 40 down inside the Delbarton 35 before Spahr connected with Golden for a 34-yard touchdown strike with 3:33 remaining in the third to tie the score at 13 after the PAT was unsuccessful.
Delbarton was forced to punt on its next possession and the Caseys began again at their own 29.
After Spahr connected with Golden for the first down at the Delbarton 48, Redaelli once again put the offense on his back and charged down field on 6 carries for 48 yards and the go-ahead touchdown to put the Caseys up, 20-13, with 9:23 remaining in the game. Redaelli finished the game with 22 carries for 95 yards and a touchdown.
The Casey defense came up huge on Delbarton’s ensuing possession with Joseph Coscarelli sacking Delbarton QB John Shaffer to set up a 3rd and 16 at Delbarton’s own 49. However, Shaffer connected with Cole Riccardi for the first at the RBC 35, but two plays later RBC’s Chris Whitlock stuffed White in the backfield, which eventually lead to a 4th and 3 for Delbarton at the RBC 28.
Delbarton decided to go for it and called a timeout with just over four minutes to play in the game.
When play resumed the Caseys broke up the play but Shaffer scrambled and found Robert Thoma open for the touchdown to tie the game at 20 and force the game into overtime.
“We covered the main route but we forgot about the other guy,” Portela said. “I saw him (Thoma) come open and I was hoping the QB didn’t see him but he did.”
RBC had a chance to win the game in regulation but a 47-yard field goal attempt came up short.
The two teams traded field goals in the first overtime to force a second overtime and after Delbarton scored on a White rushing TD, Spahr’s pass attempt was picked off by William Reynolds to end the game.
“They’re a good team so they gave us a good fight up front as we expected,” Portela said. “We felt we matched up with them pretty well and we’d have a good chance. We felt we took a baby step this year. Our goal wasn’t to win the first round of the playoffs. We wanted to win the state championship. We were hoping for that opportunity.”
“We had five minutes left and we were winning and we didn’t get it done,” Portela added. “We’ve got to keep working hard and get a little bit better because we’re just not good enough yet.”
As for his team stepping up and nearly scratching out a win for a chance at the championship after losing DiStefano early in the game, Portela was pleased.
“Would we have preferred to have Johnny? Absolutely we would’ve, but we didn’t. Larry’s going to be a great running back. He’s a good running back but he’s going to be great.”
“I think we’re here to stay,” Portela said.