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High School Football:
Irish Defense Comes Up Big in Playoff Battle

Saturday, November 11, 2000

By Art Redd
SJSports Staff Writer

The Camden Catholic Irish football team were heavy favorites in the first round of the Parochial Group 3 playoffs. But don't tell that to the Spartans of Holy Spirit. In a game were the offense of both teams struggled, the defense from Camden Catholic came up big when it counted all afternoon. Joe Kedra led the Irish defensive charge late in the game to put the finishing touch on a close game. Kedra, Matt Wilson and Joe LoCastro combined on forcing a safety to give Camden Catholic a 9-6 defensive victory in the first round of the playoffs.

The Spartans from Holy Spirit entered the game with a five hundred record, while Camden Catholic ended the season with six wins and two loses. The records wouldn't mean much as they both would literally start all over in this playoff game at Camden Catholic. Holy Spirit would elect to receive the ball first as the Irish won the coin toss and deferred the decision to the visiting team. That call would give the Irish the swirling winds to their backs in the second and final quarters.

The first quarter breezed through without any points being put up on the scoreboard as the defenses dug their cleats in to force the punt. Camden Catholic would put together a 67-yard scoring drive that started with 5:20 remaining in the first quarter and end in the beginning of the second quarter. It would be the running attack of Mark Caputi and Tom Cornely that chewed up yardage on the ground. The fifteen play drive was highlighted with Caputi's third down 29-yard run to the 19-yard line, and Cornely's fourth and inches successful run got the Irish to the five yard line. Caputi scored on a 4th and goal from one yard out to give the Irish the touchdown. Rich Racobaldo's extra point gave Camden Catholic an all important 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Holy Spirit had a running wishbone attack of their own as they began to put things together two series later after the Irish touchdown. Roshann Johnson, Tony Tabasso and Dominic Ricciardi kept the Irish defense guessing of who would get the carry. Moving the ball deep into Camden Catholic territory, wide receiver Brian Mulvihill caught a fade pass from quarterback Chris Bell that got Holy Spirit into scoring position. It would be Bell connecting with Mulvihill again on a touchdown pass that gave the Spartans an opportunity to tie the game. But the extra point attempt went wide left and the Irish would take that one point lead into the locker room at the half.

The second half featured the Irish defense beginning to dominate this game. But let's not forget that the offensive line gave Caputi some room to run. Brian Bennett, John Shultz, Nate Govan, Matt Wilson and Alex Stephenson were giving starting quarterback Nick Cangelosi time to throw but could not connect with is receivers. The ground attack seem to be won by the offensive line giving the senior running back Caputi wholes to run through. Turnovers would kill the Irish but that's when the defense came up big.

After Camden Catholic's offensive moved the ball deep into Spartan territory, it was Holy Spirit's defense that knocked down a key fourth and goal pass attempt in the endzone that give them new life. Receiving the football with 4:53 remaining in the game from their own 9-yard line, Camden Catholic saw a chance to put the pressure back on Holy Spirit.

Joe Kedra would get into the backfield of Holy Spirit forcing them to punt the ball after three plays. The defense put pressure on the punt which resulted in a 15-yard punt to the Spartans 18-yard line with 3:02 remaining in the game. Not enough time to just run the clock down, Camden Catholic set up a 4th and goal from the one inch line. Cangelosi had his own number called on the quarterback keeper but came up short. With 58 seconds remaining in the game, Holy Spirit had to start from their own one yard line to set up the winning score. Kedra had other plans as he stopped the first down running play by Tabasso. On the next play, Kedra brought a few friends with him as Wilson and LoCastro combined on the safety with 25 seconds remaining in the game. With the win, Camden Catholic would host the next game against the always tough St. Joseph (Montvale) team.

Photos by Art Redd


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