By Rich Fisher | Contributing Editor
The Red Bank Catholic and Mater Dei Prep football teams have several things in common.
Both are fueled by state tournament losses in 2017; both are coached by guys with NFL ties, both are undefeated and both are looking at first-round home games in this year’s states.
Photo Gallery: Mater Dei vs. Manasquan
They could even be on a collision course as they are staring at a semifinal showdown in the NJSIAA Non Public Group III playoffs. RBC is second in power points after six games and Mater Dei is third with its 7-0 start, although things could change over the next few weeks.
Neither side really wants to talk about that latter detail right now.
“That would be a fun match-up but really we’re all focused on this week (at undefeated Rumson-Fair Haven),” RBC senior quarterback Steve Lubischer said. “It’s a huge game for everyone; for our community and their community. It’s going to be a really fun night on Friday.”
Mater Dei signal caller Rob McCoy, a Camden Catholic transfer, says “I know that would mean a lot to the players on the team, they would like to show who’s top dog (among Shore Conference teams), but we have to worry about this week (against Donovan Catholic).”
As for going undefeated, it’s the same approach – just go unbeaten each week.
“That’s pretty much our motto, one at a time,” Lubischer said. “We’re one game at a time no matter who we’re playing in three weeks, five weeks. It doesn’t really matter, it’s one at a time.”
Seraphs sophomore defensive end Dom Giudice takes that same approach about a perfect season.
“That’s kind of in the back of our heads, but we don’t mention that,” Giudice said. “We’re always thinking 1-0 every week. So this week is the biggest game ever and that’s all we’re thinking about.”
It is a formula that has worked well for both teams.
Coming off a season in which they went 8-2 but lost a first-round playoff game to St. Joe’s of Montvale, the Caseys have used that setback as impetus.
“That definitely motivated us all off-season,” Lubischer said. “Just getting in the weight room, lifting, working hard, getting our feet quicker, faster. Whatever we have to do to come back this year and win it. We put in a lot of hard work in the off-season and its paying off right now. We’re having a lot of fun with it but we have a big game coming up this week.”
The game is a battle between two Shore Conference division champions, as Rumson has won the Colonial and RBC has won the Freedom.
“We just have to be more physical in this game,” Lubischer said. “We have to come ready to play; and if we play physical we can win.”
Lubischer, who is headed for Boston College next year, has been a huge key to the offense. The second-year starter has completed 60 of 81 passes for 1,059 yards and 15 touchdowns while throwing just two interceptions. He has rushed 17 times for 251 yards and three TDs.
“There’s still always things I can get better at,” he said. “I did have a lot to prove this year, and I still do. There’s a lot of people that doubt me. I don’t listen to that, I just listen to the coaches and do what I have to do.”
The quarterback is protected by an offensive line of Ambrose Richards, Chris Hart, Tommy Smith, Luke Guidetti and Nate Mansfield, who he said “are not that big, but they’re all doing a really great job right now.”
The running game is powered by Billy Guidetti, while the receivers feature MJ Wright, Jaden Key, Kevin Bauman and Sean Rossback.
“Those are all real good targets for me,” said Lubischer, whose offense averages 40.6 points per game. “They’re all quick and really fast, it just helps me out.”
Defensively, linemen Tommy Smith, Jack Louro and Ian Sullivan and linebackers Charlie Gordinier, John Columbia and Steve Cmielewski have played a big part in RBC allowing an average of just 8.1 points per game.
The squad has been built by Frank Edgerly, now in the second year of his second stint with RBC after leaving to work in scouting and coaching for the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns.
“Coach Edgerly is a great coach,” Lubischer said. “He knows everything about the game, he’s really put us together as a team.”
Mater Dei coach Dino Mangiero also has an NFL history, as a player with the Chiefs, Seahawks and Patriots in the 1980s. He is in his third year as Seraphs coach, but had to sit out last season after being suspended by the school for rules infractions.
Two years ago Mater Dei won the Non Public Group II title on a game-ending trick play against Holy Spirit, and last year the Seraphs played heavily favored St. Joe’s of Hammonton tough before losing in the N-P 2 title game.
“That game definitely gives us an edge to show everyone we’re the best team in the state,” said Giudice, who saw regular playing time by the end of last year. “It gives us time to think and say ‘Look what we came from last year, this year we can be something better.’ We always thing about that, every game. It’s something coach tells us every week – ‘Don’t think too much in the future, take every week as your best game and this is the most important game.’”
Mater Dei’s offense, which averages 41 points per game, is run by McCoy.
“I feel like I’m molding into the team nicely,” he said. “It was a good transition with the offense. We all work together. I tried to bond with them before the season. I had to get used to it because it was new people, but it didn’t take long. I didn’t feel any pressure, it was just something new and after a week I felt comfortable.”
Even though he’s on defense, Giudice can see the impact McCoy has had.
“He’s been a terrific leader,” the linebacker said. “He plays a big role in that; takes that very seriously. And just the way he sees the field is something different for a quarterback. His natural arm talent is terrific.”
McCoy was on target on Oct. 13 when he threw for 171 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-0 win over previously unbeaten Manasquan. He got his usual assistance from standout running back Malik Ingram, who rushed for 170 yards and two TDs.
“Having him helps a lot,” McCoy said. “Teams like to focus on the run and that just lets us use all the weapons we have on the outside.”
Those weapons include receivers Clarence Lewis, Isaiah Alston, Isaiah Noguera and tight Chris Autino. The blocking is provided by linemen Kajell Whyte, Joe Cerrato, Rakim Cooper, Nolan Aloia and Izaiah Henderson.
The defense is anchored by linebackers Shitta Sillah, Russell Ferrisi and Brandon Jones; and linemen Giudice, Henderson and Sincere Saunders, and cornerback Lewis. They have allowed an average of just 4.1 points per game and recorded three shutouts.
As a team, Mater Dei’s biggest strength is always looking forward.
“The coaches are always talking about never putting your head down on any specific play,” Giudice said. “The big thing is if we ever have a bad play we’re always supposed to flush it and get rid of it because there’s always another play ahead, and we’ll have a chance to improve on it. And we’ll all fight through it together.”[[In-content Ad]]