Bergen Catholic located in Oradell, New Jersey, is only about an hour drive from the city of New York. Bergen is an all-boys school with about 700 students throughout the whole student body. The football team is a part of the New Jersey division non-public group A. The Crusaders are known for being a football powerhouse, as they are ranked 19th in the nation (according to MaxPreps). Over the past forty years, Bergen has the winningest percentage of any team in the state of New Jersey. Along with their 18 state championships, the football team has seen some serious talent on the field over the years, with names like former Texan, Brian Cushing and Tennessee alum, Jarrett Guarantano. Head coach Vito Campanile took over the program in 2018 after his brother Nunzio, accepted a job at the University of Rutgers as the tight ends coach. Since taking the reins as head coach, Campanile led his team to a state championship win last season.
Last week, I got the great opportunity to speak with Coach Campanile about his team and their upcoming season. When I asked coach about what he is most excited about this season, he said that “Every team is different. A lot of people think that we lost so much after last season. I think just having the opportunity to go back out and get reacclimated to who we are. Also developing an identity on all three phases of the game. I think that we are eager to show that we have a lot of kids that are incredibly committed and accountable guys. We feel good about who we are already”.
While the Crusaders are looking to repeat success with another state title, they are faced with a challenging task of replacing their past seniors. On the defensive side of the ball, the Crusaders lost both their top cornerbacks in Jaeden Gould, a Nebraska commit and Jayden Bellamy, a Notre Dame commit. One the offensive side, the Crusaders lost their star quarterback, Steve Angeli, a Notre Dame commit as well as running back, Ryan Butler, Princeton commit. It will be interesting to see how Coach Campanile’s new young core will help fill in the shoes of their top guys last season.
DL Sydir Mitchell is a 2023 recruit that is very athletic for his size. At the height of 6’6 and 330 pounds, he uses his athleticism to easily beat blockers on pass protection. His quick hands and powerful first step can make him unguardable at times. “To be that athletic at that size, its beyond extraordinary”. – (Coach Campanile)
Edge DJ Samuels is also a 2023 recruit. DJ is 6’2 and about 240 pounds. His versatility makes him a challenge to block for both pass and run protection. This relentless pass rusher has already surpassed the school’s all-time sack record with his senior season still yet to play. Coach Campanile stated, “the energy and the effort DJ has played with is incredible. We’re doing some different things with him this year, such as playing off the ball and trying new spots on the d-line. He’s like a swiss army knife”. – (Coach Campanile)
WR Christian Carti is a 2023 recruit. Christian is 6’1 and about 190 pounds. He plays both wide out and slot, but his incredible route running and his hands makes him very effective between the numbers. “He just does everything the right way, his toughness, his attitude. Carti is like having a coach on the field. He’s one of the best blocking receivers I’ve ever coached. He’s selfless and devoted as a player you’ll find”. – (Coach Campanile)
LB Malachi Mercer is a 2023 recruit. At 6’1 and around 225 pounds, Mercer is a dominant run stopper who uses his high football IQ to make smart plays and quick reads. His loud and aggressive style of play showcases his hard hitting ability. Coach Campanile even stated that “you hear him play instead of watch him play”.
QB Jack Duffy is a 2023 recruit. He is 5’11 and 185 pounds. The first year starter finally gets his opportunity to shine in the spotlight. After sitting behind an elite quarterback like Angeli, “Duffy has developed really well” said Coach. Duffy is known for his arm strength, which may stem from his baseball career as a pitcher.