The Pope John Lions football team left their home turf this past Saturday and went to Jersey City to face the Hudson Catholic Hawks. The Hawks came into the matchup with a
strong 5-2 record while the Lions held a 4-3 record.
After a great defensive battle, the Hawks would pull out the victory by a score of 12-7 with Sophomore quarterback Max Casazza leading the way.
The Lions came out in the 1st quarter with energy, but so did the Hawks’ defense. When the Hawks’ offense came out into the field, the Lions’ defense was there to make stops. Senior Sean Line and Junior Joe Smart led the Lions’ defense to much needed stops. It would take until the 2nd quarter for either team to put points on the scoreboard.
The Hawks struck first, but the Lions wouldn’t give them a full 7 points as the extra point was blocked. Hawks Junior running back Devon Chavis would find the endzone with an 8-yd outside run. The Hawks would take the 6-0 lead into halftime, but the Lions wouldn’t quit.
Right out of the half, the Lions marched down the field, scoring on Sophomore running back Tylik Hill’s 5-yd run. Junior Jack Morgese added the extra point, giving the Lions a 7-6 lead.
After 3 quarters, the Lions led by this score, and it seemed that the Lions were going to continue stopping the Hawks’ defense from creating any scoring chances.
Until the Hawks did score early in the 4th quarter. Casazza found Senior wide receiver Joseph Garcia in the endzone for a 12-6 Hawk lead. Hawks Head Coach Louie Zampella called for the 2-point conversion to happen which failed on a good defensive play from the Lions. With time winding down, the Lions’ offense, led by Junior quarterback Chris Dietrich, began moving down the field.
After a short possession by the Lions, the Hawks regained possession, but failed to extend their lead. The Lions’ defense had come up strong once again, and Sophomore Isa Abdus-Salaam commented on how it was very positive that the defense had done so well to hold the Hawks to minimal points but was frustrating to see the team not be able to win the game.
“I think defense did very well today,” said Abdus-Salaam after the game. “We had some
mistakes, but overall, it was a very good performance from us as a defense. Going into next week, I want to see us take control of the game and get a statement win, so we can head into the state tournament with a positive mindset.”
After a Hawk punt, the Lions had only 20 seconds to go 90 yards and score a touchdown. The Lions gained 30 yards and made one last throw to the endzone which was batted away by the Hawks’ defense.
The Lions dropped their record to 4-4, evening their record for the 1st time since the loss to the Seton Hall Pirates in Week 2 of the season. Lions Head Coach Dom Gaston knew that the team wasn’t in a bad place, and that they just needed to regroup for the final game
of the 2022 regular season next week against the Saint Joe’s (Metuchen) Falcons.
“It was a tough loss today, that happens in football,” said Coach Gaston. “We need to play all 48 minutes of the game. They’re [the Hawks] a winning program, they always fight, and never give up. Next week begins our playoff mindset because we’re now playing for seeding. We just need to focus on how to win, one game at a time.”
Andrew Nowel, Contributing Sportswriter
Currently enrolled at Canisius University in Buffalo, New York, Andrew Nowel is an up-and-coming journalist/photographer and broadcaster. He wrote sports' articles for his high school, Pope John XXIII Regional High School. Andrew has worked with Morris Sussex Sports in sports broadcasting and analyzes professional sports in his free time. Andrew and his friend Ryan have a podcast that talks about professional sports and Canisius Athletics. Andrew also runs his own website about Canisius Athletics. He strives to inform the people about local sports and the young athletes of our communities from Buffalo to New Jersey and everywhere.
Andrew has provided previous and remarkable sports stories and photographs for the Ridge View Echo since he was 16 and enrolled at Pope John High School.