Big things going down this weekend, so we're going to make a big temporary change. I, Brandon Parker, the ESPNHS New Jersey editor, am here to preview Saturday's much-anticipated matchup between national No. 1 Don Bosco Prep and No. 6 St. Edward at 6 p.m. at Fordham University (N.Y.). But since most of the Ohio blog's readers know plenty about their home team, I'm going to break down some things you should know about the opponent. For those who want to see what your boy David Auguste has to say about the home team, click here to read a similar primer on the New Jersey blog.
Don Bosco Prep Ironmen (Ramsey, N.J.)
Record: 4-0, five-time defending Non-Public Group 4 state champs
Coach: Greg Toal
POWERADE FAB 50 ranking: 1
Impact players: DB Yuri Wright, Sr. (No. 41 in ESPNU 150); Darius Hamilton, Sr. (No. 66 in ESPNU 150); DB/RB Elijah Shumate, Sr. (No. 6 player in New Jersey); WR Leonte Carroo, Sr.; DL Mike Strizak, Sr.; DB/RB Jabrill Peppers, So.
Five things you need to know about Don Bosco Prep
1. The best offense is good defense
Yeah, I know I switched up that statement, but it's justifiable for this team. As you can tell from the list of big-time recruits above, Don Bosco is absolutely loaded on defense and its a big reason why they have the nation's top ranking. When Mission Viejo (Calif.) came to town, the defense had four interceptions and six sacks. Against Manatee (Fla.), a late fumble recovery led to the decisive score. And last week, two interceptions and a fourth-down stop sparked 12 straight points in the final quarter and a comeback win against rival Bergen Catholic. I hear St. Edward's offense is a bit down this year, which could play into the Ironmen's hands.
2. Strength of schedule
In order to stake its claim as number one and put New Jersey on the map, the Ironmen have pulled no stops when it comes to opponents. Three of their four opponents have made appearances in the POWERADE FAB 50 this year and they've won by a margin of 90-45. Oh and speaking of wins, Don Bosco is going for its 40th straight victory. And while you might say that matters little in the here and now, understand that the Ironmen's heavy rotation of talent the last five years means this season's squad is filled with upperclassmen who have been well-groomed by past veterans.
3. Run by committee
Yes, the Ironmen's defense is stacked, but their offense ain't bad, either. Most of the production comes on the ground, as Jabrill Peppers and Elijah Shumate can churn out big yardage and score at well. Last week, the duo combined for 189 yards and four scores; and if they run out of gas, there's John Wilkins, who had 126 yards and two TDs in the season opener but has seen minimal action since then.
4. That's my quarterback
The X-factor in this game will be the play of Don Bosco Prep QB Mike Yankovich. The first-year starter has stepped in when it counts, like when he connected with Leonte Carroo on a 64-yard touchdown strike in the fourth quarter against Manatee to give the Ironmen the lead for good. But his inexperience has sometimes yielded inconsistent play and, like most quarterbacks, he struggles when pressured. Yankovich will need to play mistake-free football to give the Ironmen the edge in their biggest game to date.
5. Fourth quarter
Here's where I think the difference in the game will be made. You might've noticed that the words "comeback" and "fourth quarter" have come up often in this post, and that's because when other teams start wearing down, Don Bosco is just getting started. To get an idea of where the Ironmen's endurance comes from, check out this video.
My pick: Don Bosco Prep 24, St. Edward 17
Brandon Parker covers New Jersey for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.