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2009 - RivalsHigh 100 | Rivals High | last sorted on 12/22/2009
Compiled by Dallas Jackson (email)
The question needs to be asked: If New Jersey only had one team in the RivalsHigh Top 100 rankings for most of the season, how could a team from the state - Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep - ascend to the top of the rankings and win the 2009 national championship?
The answer actually is easy.
In a season filled with upsets and parity in all of the traditional football power states, Don Bosco Prep stood out:
Video of Don Bosco's win in the state title game.
“This is a special experience for the kids,” Don Bosco athletic director and assistant coach Nunzio Campanile said. “We thought this was a special season but you never know how the polls will play out.”
For Bosco, seeing how the polls would turn out was actually its most stressful ‘game’ of the season.
The school jumped to No. 2 nationally when the calendar turned to November and remained there after capturing its fourth straight New Jersey state title on Dec. 5.
Then it had to sit and wait and see how the season played out in Florida, California and Texas.
First, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas – the undisputed top team going for its second straight national title – was stunned in the Florida 5A semifinals by Manatee on Dec. 11.
The next day, the No. 3 team - powerful Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison – lost in the California state playoffs to Servite.
All that was left was Texas.
Austin (Texas) Lake Travis rose to No. 2 and went on to capture its third straight Texas 4A, Division 1 title last Saturday but it did not do enough to pass Don Bosco.
“Everything we’ve done just paid off,” senior lineman James Kittredge told NorthJersey.com. “All those grueling days, getting after each other in the heat.
“It turned out just the way the coaches promised. They said it could happen. They weren’t lying.”
Campanile credits tough scheduling for the team’s success.
“We try to challenge our kids,” he said. “We try to find out what they are all about. Those games against De La Salle and Prattville keep our kids motivated to work hard.”
Those games helped Don Bosco get the nod as national champions as well.
New Jersey had such a dramatically ‘down’ year this fall that it wasn’t worthy of inclusion in RivalsHigh’s 12-state tournament to determine where the best football is played.
But Bosco showed two teams what Jersey football is about.
On Sept. 12, Don Bosco dominated Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, 30-6, holding the eventual CIF Open Bowl champion to under 100 yards of offense. De La Salle finished the year ranked No. 39.
Two weekends later, on Sept. 25, Don Bosco had its defining moment against Prattville (Ala.) High.
Bosco roared to a 25-0 lead before Prattville came back to get within one at 25-24. Bosco responded with the next ten points to close out the game.
“The Prattville game was big for us,” Campanile said. “Traveling 1,000 miles and having our backs against the wall and a hostile crowd, told us a lot about this team.”
Prattville eventually advanced to the final of the Alabama Class 6A and finished the year ranked No. 96.
Two out-of-state wins aside, Bosco also beat the best in their state, rolling over Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph’s, Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic, Jersey City (N.J) St. Peter’s Prep and West Orange (N.J.) Seton Hall Prep were all needed to push the Ironmen to the title.
Those schools, which have challenged – and beaten – Don Bosco in the past, were no match this season.
As it turns out, no school was.
Each Monday throughout the high school football season, RivalsHigh.com will release the RivalsHigh 100. Click here to post a question for Dallas Jackson, and he will make sure to answer your questions about our rankings.
The RivalsHigh 100 is compiled by Dallas Jackson with the help of the Rivals.com network of high school site publishers, recruiting analysts and AMP team. To view the site in your area click here.