St. Peter's football erases a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit to stun St. Joseph

A high school football game between Saint Peter's Prep at Bergen Catholic in Oradell on Saturday November 28, 2020. Saint Peter's Prep runs onto the field.

MONTVALE – Champ Long remained a believer until the very end.

And so did the rest of the St. Peter’s football team.

After seven straight losses in Montvale dating back to 2008, the Jersey City school finally broke through 14 years later when the game was on the line.

St. Peter’s, No. 3 in the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey Top 25, erased a 17-point, fourth-quarter deficit, to come back and defeat No. 11 St. Joseph, 41-38, on Saturday in a Super Football Conference United Red clash on Tony Karcich Field at Robert J. Dinallo Stadium.

Long, a Maryland commit, engineered a comeback for the ages in the final 90 seconds when he found receiver Kenyon Massey on a 23-yard slant for the game-winning touchdown to cap a two-play, 53-yard drive in what was a wild fourth quarter.

“We knew it was going to be a tough fight the entire week of practice. We trusted in our game plan and trusted what the coaches prepared us for. We trusted each other the whole time," said Long, who completed four passes for 131 yards down the stretch. "It was a read and I just took the best matchup and [Kenyon] Massey just came down with it. We never thought we were out of it. We’re mentally strong and we made it work.”

St. Joseph kicker Marcos Ruiz’s last-second field goal attempt from 45 yards out came up short as time expired, sending the St. Peter’s bench and fans into a frenzy.

It was the third straight win for St. Peter’s (4-1). The Green Knights dipped to 2-3.

The game was tied at 14 at the end of the first quarter but the Green Knights scored 14 unanswered points in the second on touchdown runs by sophomore quarterback Joey Gaston and junior running back Yasin Willis to take a 28-14 lead into the half.

Gaston, starting under center for just the second time in his career in place of injured senior Luke Henrich, scored on a 18-yard keeper with 9:45 left in the first half to put the Green Knights up, 21-14. Just over three minutes later, Willis (168 yards, 26 carries, two touchdowns) found the end zone when he barreled in from six yards out to give the home team a 14-point lead with 6:13 left.

“I feel like we’re going to come out victorious in the end. We’re going to go on and do some big things,” said Gaston who was 6-of-13 passing for 65 yards and rushed for 99 yards on seven carries and one touchdown. “I think this is going to make us better. We’re going to see them [St. Peter’s] again.

“I’m ahead of the timeline right now as I didn’t expect to be playing much as a sophomore. I have to keep on working. But it’s this year that I’m concentrating on as there’s a lot of football left to play.”

The Green Knights had an excellent opportunity to go up by three scores in the closing seconds of the first half when they had the ball on the 1-yard line with 13 seconds remaining after Gaston peeled off a 54-yard keeper down inside the five-yard line. But on second down, Gaston’s attempt to cross the goal line fell short as Prep’s defense held up as time expired.

St. Peter’s pulled within a touchdown at 28-21 following a surprise on-sides kick to start the second half. The trickery gave the Marauders the ball on the Green Knights 49. Seven plays later, St. Peter’s lined up for a field goal, but surprised St. Joseph with a fake kick. Placeholder Tyler Bell took the snap, pulled up, and found receiver DJ Brown wide open from 25-yards out to pull within seven with 9:35 left to play in the third quarter.

On the ensuing drive, St. Joseph answered right back 19 second later when sophomore running back John Forster (nine carries,155 yards, two touchdowns) took a shuttle pass from Gaston and raced 78 yards down the left sideline to put the Green Knights back up, 35-21.

St. Joseph would pad its lead by as much as 17 points when Ruiz nailed a 19-yard field goal with 1:19 left in the third for a 38-21 advantage.

After that, it was all St. Peter’s, who scored 19 unanswered points to complete the scoring.

Jalen Cline scored on a 29-yard run to open the fourth quarter and then Long found the end zone on a seven-yard keeper with 4:33 left to pull within 38-33.

What it means

St. Peter’s moves within a game of first place in the SFC United Red behind division leader Don Bosco. The Ironmen delivered a knockout blow to Bergen Catholic on Saturday, rolling past the Crusaders on their home field, 31-7.

Saturday was the 20th meeting between St. Joseph and St. Peter’s. The Green Knights hold a 13-7 advantage.

The loss drops St. Joseph below .500 for the first time since 2006. They currently sit in last place in the United Red with an 0-2 record.

By the numbers

➧ The Green Knights out-rushed the Marauders, 451-212.

➧ Long threw for 234 yards on 11-of-22 and a touchdown and two interceptions.

➧ Cline rushed for 168 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.

➧ St. Joseph's Jovon Williams had two interceptions.

➧ Massey had six receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown.

➧ Zion Fowler had three receptions for 92 yards for St. Peter's.

History repeats itself

In a twist of fate, St. Peter's pulled out a dramatic 22-21 come-from-behind victory over two-time defending champions St. Joseph 33 years ago in the 1989 Parochial A North state title game in Montvale in the only meeting between the two parochial powers in a state sectional final.

Trailing 21-7 early in the fourth quarter, the Marauders put together two scoring drives down the stretch, including the dramatic go-ahead touchdown and deciding two-point conversion with less than a minute to play.

Like Long on Saturday, St. Peter's Prep quarterback Anthony Guma engineered the game-winning drive, completing four passes for 77 yards, including a 22-yard fade pass to Jim Francesco for the touchdown to pull the Marauders within a point at 21-20.

Guma then won the game when he rolled right on the conversion, escaped a blitz and hit running back Paul Mulcahy in the corner of the end zone. Second-year coach Rich Hansen never hesitated in signaling his team to go for the two-point conversion.

“We definitely don’t hide from history here. We talked about it that we haven’t won up here in a long time. My mom reminded me that one of the the last times that happened I was probably in diapers in the stands here when my dad was head coach,” St. Peter’s second-year coach Rich Hansen III said. “It’s been a long time. We love doing things for the first time and there’s not many when you coach at a great program. So this one is a big one for us.”

They said it

“We’re going to stay level-headed. There’s work for improvement and we’re going to come back Monday and continue to work hard.” – Long.

“I feel like we made a statement today. We came out here and expected a dog fight. We just had to come out on top. We never felt we were out of it. Coach Hansen told us to keep our heads in the game. We’re happy we came out on top.” – Massey.

Up next

St. Joseph is on the road at Donovan Catholic next Friday

St. Peter's hosts Don Bosco next Friday

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: St. Peter's NJ football erases late 17-point deficit to stun St. Joseph