St. Augustine Football Hopes to Bring a State Title to the South
When Mark Reardon took over as the St. Augustine Prep football coach four years ago he said he wanted the Hermits to compete with the best programs in the state.
On Friday night, they have the opportunity to prove they can when the top-seeded Hermits will host eighth seeded St. Joe's Montvale (97.3 ESPN, 7pm) in a non-public IV state playoff game.
The Hermits had their first chance last last season, facing Don Bosco Prep in the non-public IV game, they battled hard but lost 42-21. The Hermits did defeat St. Joe's-Metuchen 42-28 in 2013 before being shutout 34-0 by St. Peter's Prep.
The Hermits have crossed a few things off their to-do list, beating St. Joe's, snapping the Wildcats 21-game win streak to open the season, going undefeated to grab the No. 1 seed in non-public IV and winning the American Conference title are all nice.
"We thought we'd be solid this year," Hermits coach Mark Reardon said as a guest of the South Jersey Sports Report last week. "We won our league which is awesome, but in terms of our major goal, which is to win a state championship, we've gotten ourselves a state playoff game, now we have to go play like we have all season."
(Listen to St. Augustine Prep Football coach Mark Reardon on the South Jersey Sports Report with Dave O'Sullivan)
But now they have a shot, at home games to show the Prep fans they have arrived.
To do that sophomore running back Kyle Dobbins, who ran for 1,295 yards and 18 touchdowns, both led the Cape-Atlantic League and senior quarterback Jose Tabora (1304 yards, 16 touchdowns) will have to play well. The duo has been outstanding all season, especially Dobbins who replaced LaMont Harris, who ran for 1911 yards and 26 touchdowns last season.
"We have a great mix, we have some young skill kids who can really go and a senior quarterback who can really get you going." Reardon explained. "We do a lot of different things with Jose that we couldn't do with other players."
The key to the Hermits could be Tabora, now a senior, he has been the starting quarterback for four years and seen the program build from the start of the Reardon era to now being a top seed in the playoffs.
"This season has been everything we could ask for," Tabora said as a guest on the South Jersey Sports Report. "But there is still much more we have to accomplish, but I'm very proud of my team and my coaches and everyone that's involved. We've worked so hard and it's paying off but its time for playoffs and that's always fun."
"He's a luxury that we have," Reardon added about his senior signal-caller. "He' really done an unbelievable job."
The Hermits offense averages 42. 3 points per game, best in the CAL which gives the Hermits a lot of press coverage.
"The difference between this year and the past couple of years is we have so many more weapons," Tabora said.
In addition to Dobbins, the Hermits are deep at wide receiver Zeke Ennis, Xavier File, Justin Skinner, and Dan Pavlik are four of the top 40 wideouts in the Cape-Atlantic League.
However, it might be the Prep's defense which allows just 6.9 points per game that might be their strongest unit which is led by 6-foot, 220 lbs. linebacker Jim Brady.
"He's very instinctive," Reardon said about Brady. "He's Jose (Tabora) but playing linebacker with his mentality and the things we get in-and-out of. We need someone out there who is directing the show and Jimmy does that."
Reardon came to St. Augustine as one of the most accomplished defensive assistant coaches in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision while at Villanova, serving as the defensive coordinator. He wanted to preach to his team to be a physical, downhill type of defense that attacks their opponents, playing an aggressive style of defense.
"When you have a guy like Jimmy, you can do some other things with some other people," Reardon explained. "He allows you to take a few more chances on the edge with pressure and things like that."
While St. Augustine has had plenty of success on the basketball court, having success on the football field has not been easy. However, the support from the school and the student body is starting to show that in RIchland, they can get rowdy for football.
"I think the kids at the school are excited about that (having a home playoff game vs. a team like St. Joe's Montvale), but our whole M.O. has been this, get to the state playoffs and we need to win games. For us, we're well past the 'hey we're happy to be here type of thing', you set goals at the start of the year and one of our goals is not to get to the playoffs, one of our goals was to win the state championship and that still holds true."
So what will the Hermits have to to show the north jersey powers that they have arrived, what can they do over the next week to get ready to prove to the south jersey football community that they can play with the north jersey football power?
"We're either ready or we're not," Reardon admitted. "We are who we are, we'll continue to practice and prepare but we're going to become more physical or anything different in two weeks. That stuff all occurs in the summer, preseason and throughout all the course of the season."
So any pre game rah-rah speeches prepared for the Hermits big show down vs. St. Joe's Montvale this week?
"I'll may just have one of the senior say something," Reardon laughed. "If I have to say anything to those guys at this point then I have done a bad job in every moment leading up to that point. If you're not ready to play a game like this, then you'll never be ready."
Its just the second home playoff game at St. Augustine since 1995.
"We wanted that so bad," Tabora said about getting a home playoff game, "We got it now we have to win it."
(Listen to St. Augustine Prep quarterback Jose Tabora)