NEW YORK -- Jabrill Peppers said he doesn't like to sound cocky. He saves that for the field. And maybe a little bit for after the game.
The Don Bosco sophomore led the undefeated Ironmen to a convincing 38-7 victory Saturday night over nationally ranked St. Edward of Lakewood, Ohio, for the team's 40th straight victory. He earned the right to say what he wanted.
"Once we stopped them on defense, I already thought we had their heart," Peppers said. "Once we stopped them again, I saw it. I saw it in them. They didn't want to be on the field with us anymore. So the offense just had to stay on them. Keep pressing and keep pressing. We broke them. We broke them."
The truth is, he makes a strong argument. Don Bosco pounced on St. Edward early. In fact, the first play from scrimmage -- an option play where Peppers overthrew Leonte Caroo, who had a step on St. Edward's secondary –- showed that not only did Don Bosco plan to challenge St. Edward, it seemed like the Ironmen felt as if they could do whatever they wanted. And they did.
"This is a tremendous statement, seeing as how people were feeling like we're not the best team in the land," Peppers said. "But if you play us, if you come watch us practice, we work too hard. So yeah, this definitely makes a statement. 38-7 over a national top-10 opponent? Yeah, this is real big."
Peppers accounted for three Don Bosco touchdowns, including a 1-yard score that he used to finish off an interception he caught with 25 seconds left in the first half. The score put Don Bosco ahead 21-0. Peppers also scored on a 1-yard run on Don Bosco's first drive with 6:48 left in the first quarter.
That drive started after the Ironmen forced St. Edward, ranked No. 6 in the nation by ESPN's Powerade Fab 50, into a quick three-and-out on their opening series. Don Bosco senior quarterback Mike Yankovich carried his team downfield, completing all five of his pass attempts for 51 yards before Peppers punched it in. The Ironmen scored on their first three drives of the game and carried a 21-0 lead just two minutes into the second quarter.
"I was a little surprised, I'm going to be honest with you," Don Bosco coach Greg Toal said. "We were hitting on all cylinders and they looked a little flat."
It wasn't just that Don Bosco imposed its will on offense. It smothered St. Edward on defense as well. Ohio's best team mustered just two first-quarter first downs, one of which came when St. Edward's Quincy Jones scampered 32 yards down the right sideline on a fake punt on fourth-and-16 in the first quarter. The other Don Bosco handed them with an offsides penalty. As well as Peppers played, it almost shadowed Yankovich's performance. He completed 15 of 20 passes for 165 yards while rushing for another 57.
"He threw the ball great. He ran the ball great," Toal said. "He did everything you can ask a quarterback to do. He played as good as anybody, I think."
Don Bosco won't play another top-level opponent until they visit St. Joseph's Regional on Nov. 24. Toal didn't offer any specifics on how he'll keep his team as sharp and focused as they played Saturday night.
"We'll find a way," he said.
Christopher Hunt is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.