CLARK, NJ- After being locked in a defensive battle for much of the first half that featured three field goals, the Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders varsity football team began the second half looking to add to their early lead in their 2017 home opener.
After getting the ball in the third quarter, they made it happen with their running game, scoring 28 unanswered second-half points, powered by senior fullback and co-captain Joe Turek, who scored 14 touchdowns in his junior year.
He scored three touchdowns and recorded 150 rushing yards on 14 carries as the Crusaders took down the New Providence High School Pioneers by a final score of 41-3 Friday night in Clark. Turek’s three scores all came in the second half, a major rebound for the Crusaders after being held to only one touchdown in the first half.
“We just had to settle in,” Turek said. “The coaches drew up all of the adjustments and we made great adjustments in the whole [second] half.”
His first two rushing touchdowns (eight yards and two yards) came in the third quarter and his third one of the night came in the fourth quarter.
Junior Sebastian Iakouchevitch added a 39-yard rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter that would be the final score of the night for the Crusaders.
On the evening, the Crusaders ran the ball 30 times and produced 249 rushing yards.
Johnson found themselves in early trouble following a mistake that took place on the opening kickoff. Junior Vito Galluzzo caught the football and ran, but lost control after taking a hit allowing the Pioneers to get on top of the ball.
New Providence started on the Johnson 20-yard line, but after three running plays, the Crusaders defense stopped them two yards short of the first down. The Pioneers took a 3-0 lead following a 30-yard field goal from senior Patrick Trez.
Despite the early adversity, the Johnson players were encouraged by being able to limit their opponent when they were deep in Crusader territory.
“It shows a lot about our team and our character and how we’re hard-working and always willing to do the best we can,” senior and co-captain Tommy Bowen said.
It didn’t take long for Johnson to strike back. Starting on their 44-yard line, the Crusaders continued running the football into New Providence territory.
On the sixth play of the drive, senior quarterback Mike Bruno took the ball and immediately broke to the left side of the field and raced towards the end zone for a 20-yard rushing touchdown. Following the extra point, Johnson took the lead, 7-3.
The Pioneers got the ball back, looking to rebound after allowing the game’s first touchdown. After three rushing plays, they were faced with a fourth down and got into punting formation. They punted the ball away, but Johnson was called for a roughing the kicker penalty. It carried 15 yards, giving New Providence a new opportunity in the drive.
Following a holding penalty on the Pioneers, sophomore quarterback Owen Kovacs tried to run on a third down play, but after a heavy hit, the ball came loose and was recovered by the Johnson defense deep in New Providence territory.
After the first quarter, the score stood 7-3 with the Crusaders in front.
The Pioneers defense continued fighting the Crusaders on the ground and limited their early chances. Johnson senior kicker Mike Casalino connected for a 23-yard field goal to give the Crusaders a 10-3 lead.
New Providence would hold the ball for a drive that spanned eight minutes. At one point, they were forced to punt, but Trezza suddenly broke through to convert, giving the Pioneers a first down on a fake punt.
Six plays later (featuring a bad snap for a 13-yard loss), the drive stalled and Trezza attempted a 44-yard field goal, but the ball went wide, cancelling out the drive. Johnson got the ball back, looking for points before the half.
Senior Brandon Rapp provided the key play, a 47-yard rush that set Johnson up right before the half. On the night, he finished with 65 yards on six carries.
“Our offensive line did a great job,” Rapp said. “They blocked everybody they were supposed to and they let me work.”
Casalino (2-for-2 on field goals and 28 extra points in 2016) cashed in for his second field goal, a 40-yard field goal, giving Johnson a 13-3 lead at halftime. While the ball sailed towards the uprights, it went through to add three points for the Crusaders. He was 5-for-5 on extra points and 2-for-2 on field goals.
“I just had to do what I [always do] and help the team get some points before halftime,” Casalino said.
This is the third meeting in the past three years between the two teams (Johnson won 40-6 in the 2015 NJSIAA Central, Group 2 first round, Johnson won 38-0 season opener in 2016).
“They’ve bought into what we have been preaching to them,” Johnson assistant coach Joe Ascolese said. “Coach DelConte and Coach Di Nucci tell them every day, to play fast, play physical, run to the football, tackle and that's what exactly what we did.”
It was also the first game for New Providence head coach Chet Parlavecchio, Jr., who was hired in May to lead the Pioneers football program.
The Johnson Crusaders (1-0) will head out on the road to play at Bernards HS on Friday, September 15 at 7:00 p.m.
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