When you’re a starter on the Don Bosco Prep defense, a lot is expected in a game against rival Bergen Catholic -- especially if you’re one of the best high school players in the country.
What if you’re only a sophomore, though?
According to star running back and cornerback Jabrill Peppers, you don’t really have a choice.
“You can’t be a sophomore -- I’m a play maker and my teammates expect me to make plays,” he said after the Ironmen rallied in the fourth quarter and edged rival Bergen Catholic, 33-22. “I have to change the game. For me, I look at it like I have to make an impact on the game (as if) I am a senior.”
Don Bosco has won by fewer points this season, but Bergen Catholic gave the No. 1 team in the nation its biggest scare, leading throughout most of the game, including entering the final quarter of play.
“They blew my mind, I didn’t think they would be this good,” Peppers said. “Especially with Tanner (McEvoy), Cameron Dickerson and Spencer Kulcsar leaving, but they have a great coach. You can’t doubt Nunz.”
Peppers referred to former Don Bosco offensive coordinator Nunzio Campinile, who always brings his team ready to play. The Crusaders most certainly were.
Bergen Catholic rode momentum from an early score and clever, two-point conversion almost all the way to victory, but the its biggest rival never doubts itself and that’s why, even at a young age, Peppers finds it so easy to perform at a high level.
“We all know if you do your job, the job will get done. That’s the motto. If I do my job my teammates will take care of the rest,” Peppers said. “We are confident because we prepare very hard and football is the most important thing to every guy on this team. We love winning football games and having fun.”
It sure looks fun the way Peppers plays the game; it has to be when you are the fastest and probably most talented guy on any field you step on.
What looked like an innocuous carry up the middle in the second quarter turned into a breathtaking display of speed as car number 18 found the second level, hit sixth gear and left a trail of Crusaders in his wake.
“Oh, I’m gone. I’m gone,” Peppers said of when he sees even the slightest bit of daylight. “I get to race against Leonte Carroo every day in practice and we both have that track speed. Once I get out in space I just keep it high and tight in case anyone comes up from behind.”
Carroo finished with a great game and a touchdown of his own (he should have had a second on a called back kickoff return), but even he couldn’t catch Peppers from behind. Peppers is one of those unique players you only see come along so often. He garnered high praise from his coach Greg Toal after the game.
“Jabrill is a special kid and a special talent,” Toal said. “He continues to step up when we need him to, I’m really proud of him.”
It was a thrilling back and forth game for the nearly 6,000 people who packed the campus at Don Bosco, and the folks who tuned into MSG Varsity’s live telecast were really given a treat. For Peppers, it was the main reason he came to play for coach Toal, big time games against big time teams.
“It’s awesome. That’s why you come to Don Bosco,” he said. “You can’t beat it; it’s like a baby college atmosphere. It’s really amazing.”
So now it’s on to a bunch of formalities before we hopefully get to watch the second installment of what can only be described as the best rivalry in New Jersey sports. Peppers and the Ironmen got the best of Bergen last season in the state finals, so what does he think this year’s potential matchup could hold?
“It’s going to be a tough, close game. That’s all I know.”
Contact John Quirk at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @QuirkMedia