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September 16, 2011
Tom Bergeron is the Senior Editor for RivalsHigh.com. Send ideas, questions or comments to TBergero@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow on Twitter.
All the talk about whether quarterback play is the only thing that could hold back No. 1 Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep isn't going to go away.
But let's be clear: In the biggest moment of the early season, it was a play by the quarterback that helped Don Bosco pull ahead and away from No. 80 Bradenton (Fla.) Manatee for a 22-16 victory in Bradenton, Fla.
Bosco then turned to its defense and special teams, taking over on the Manatee 6 after a botched punt attempt. Jabrill Peppers went in on the next play, his second rushing touchdown of the night.
But a week after dismantling Mission Viejo (Calif.) High with its defense, all anyone could talk about was the Don Bosco offense - or at least the big play that changed the game.
"That was the difference in the game," Don Bosco coach Greg Toal told The Star-Ledger. "Leonte can do that. He's got some great speed, there's no doubt about that."
Doubts, however, will creep into the conversation about Don Bosco status atop the RivalsHigh Top 100.
"The debate can certainly be made to move Don Bosco down," RivalsHigh senior analyst Dallas Jackson said. "It's a debate that has merit on both sides.
"Don Bosco beat Mission Viejo (Calif.) on Saturday then traveled down to Florida and beat Bradenton Manatee just six days later - it would be hard to punish a team for doing that. However, it does need to be pointed out that the group at the top is very close and neither of the first two wins were all that impressive. And the offense has shown to be very suspect.
"There are going to be changes among the Top 10, but Don Bosco is likely holding onto No. 1 for now."
No. 2 Allen (Texas) High and No. 3 Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas were both off, which figured to help Bosco. But No. 4 Louisville (Ky.) Trinity and No. 5 Gaffney (S.C.) High both had impressive road victories.
Of course, Don Bosco won on the road, too. Against a ranked opponent. And while the victory is the Iron Men's 37th in a row, it may be one of the toughest of the streak.
Don Bosco jumped out to a 6-0 lead thanks to a 31-yard touchdown by Peppers in the first quarter. But Bosco missed the point-after attempt and then seemed to lose its offense.
Manatee receiver Anthony Lauro had 10 catches but his first score came on a reverse in the second quarter to give Manatee a 7-6 halftime lead.
Bosco took a 9-7 lead on a field goal, but Manatee responded with a field goal of its own to set up the key play.
Manatee limited Bosco to 238 yards. But, as many teams figure to find out this year, there's little room for success against Bosco's defense. Manatee had just 41 rushing yards on 38 attempts. Quarterback Cord Sandburg threw for 165 yards, including a 5-yard score with just under two minutes left to cut it to 22-16.
But when Bosco came up with the onside kick, it also came away with the victory.