The Delbarton football team defeated Pope John XXIII 45-16 in the 2011 season opener in Sparta Saturday, besting the team that sent them home from the state tournament two years in a row.
The Green Wave was hungry for a win against the Lions. Delbarton owned the scoreboard for most of the contest with an effective offense led by senior quarterback John Shaffer. Shaffer completed 13 of 17 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns.
When not going into the air, Delbarton's ground game pounded the opposing defense with running back Jamie White producing 91 yards on 20 carries. White scored one touchdown rushing and one receiving.
The Delbarton offense was complemented by a defense that made Pope John cough up the ball, resulting in three fumble recoveries by Delbarton. Delbarton linebacker Dennis Bencsko had a busy day with 11 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. Teammate Robert Thoma recovered two fumbles. The Delbarton special teams unit blocked a Pope John punt in the opening stages of the third quarter which was recovered in the end zone by defensive back Eric Fajardo for a touchdown. That play marked the beginning of the end for Pope John.
While everything seemed to go right for the Green Wave, in contrast almost everything went wrong for the Lions. Pope John led the game briefly just before the half after linebacker Daniel Cunico returned a Shaffer interception 35 yards for a touchdown with a 1:24 left to play. Pope John could not get much traction on offense or defense for the remainder of the game. After the interception Delbarton quarterback Shaffer came back and completed four passes concluding in a touchdown pass to tight end Cole Riccardi, which put Delbarton ahead for the remainder of the game. The score at this point was 17-16.
The Green Wave came out swinging in the second half. Shaffer led the Green Wave 80 yards in six plays including three consecutive passes for 45 yards. Running back Robert Arancio took the ball into the end zone on a 21-yard run pushing the score to 24-16. Pope John got the ball back but a high snap over quaterback Johnny Holden's head resulted in a touchdown for Delbarton after defensive back Eric Fajardo pounced on the ball in the end zone. The Lions found themselves in a deep hole with the score now 31-16. A little over a minute later Robert Fajardo (Eric Fajardo's brother) pounced on the ball in the end zone after teammate Josef Johnson blocked a punt. The score now was 38-16 and a fork could be stuck in the Lions at this point because they were pretty much done for the day. The Green Wave continued piling the points on the scoreboard. The final score was Pope John 16, Delbarton 45.
The day belonged to Delbarton and they played very well as a team. The Lions were their own worse enemies turning the ball over multiple times including a fumble on their first play of the game. Despite senior running back Cory Bell's 132 yards gained and one touchdown, the Lions offense was ineffective.
Delbarton quarterback John Shaffer commented after the game saying "It was a great team win for us and a lot of guys contributed. We didn't have a good first series but the second series was tremendous. The younger guys did a good job contributing too especially Robby Arancio with the big touchdown. We looked good today and I'm excited."
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Ball turnovers hurt the Lions badly. Poor snaps also hurt them. The Pope John receivers couldn't catch a cold. The Green Wave capitalized on the Lions mistakes. Delbarton played as a well-conditioned unit, hitting Pope John hard, keeping them off-balance throughout the contest.
Delbarton Player of the game
There was no player of the game because the entire team was a standout and played well as a whole.
TOP Delbarton OFFENSIVE PERFORMANCES
PASSING: John Shaffer (13 of 17 for 191 yards; two touchdowns)
RUSHING: Jamie White (91 yards on 20 carries)
TOP Delbarton DEFENSIVE PERFORMANCES
TACKLING: Dennis Bencsko (11 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery)
TURNOVERS: The Farjardo Brothers: Eric Fajardo (one interception and a fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown) and Robert Fajardo (fumble recovery in the end zone in the 3rd quarter for a touchdown).
Pope John XXIII running back Cory Bell managed to gain 132 yards on 17 carries despite his team's showing.
THEY SAID IT
"We had some turnovers and they (Lions) had some turnovers and that was a big part of the game but our answer in the second quarter–after Shaffer throwing an interception we came right back and scored with time running out–was great stuff. That was Shaffer and the whole team stepping up. We are pleased with a team win against a good Pope John team." –Delbarton head coach Brian Bowers