The Seton Hall Prep-Delbarton football rivalry, which has become an annual event since the Super Football Conference realignment in 2016, has quickly grown into a huge deal for every school.
On Saturday, Jaden Craig, senior at Seton Hall Prep, did more than his part to keep the pendulum swinging back in the direction of his program.
Seton Hall – No.3 in NJ.com’s top 20 – used three touchdowns at the end of his 28-point second quarter to pull away from No.13 Delbarton and left William O. Regan Field in the Morris Township with a 34-21 win.
The Pirates increased their record to 6-1 this season, while Delbarton fell to 3-4 with the loss.
The win avens a 24-14 loss Seton Hall Prep suffered at the hands of Delbarton last fall, something Craig remembers well. The senior threw for 267 yards – all but 13 in a dominant first half – and three scores to lead his team to victory.
“This week in our panel discussions, the video of them celebrating on our logo after beating us last year was shared,” Craig said. “It was a good reminder for us to have a good week of training.”
The results of this practice seemed excellent in the first half. Already holding a 10-0 lead, Seton Hall entered the table when Craig threw a pass for Mason Mac, who ran under him at the back of the end zone at 34 yards to extend that advantage to 17- 0 with 4:20 to go until halftime.
Delbarton, who struggled to move the ball in the first half, got a big play to get on the chessboard. Senior full-back Aidan Papantonis took over in the middle and split the Pirates ‘safeties to go 61 yards to pay, intact, reducing the deficit to 17-7 after Jack Peros’ extra point.
But the Pirates got back to work immediately and it took two big games in a row to react. On the third set of practice, Craig connected with Myles Thomason for 37, bringing him to Delbarton 41.
A play later, Craig threw a 12-yard curl at Nick Dunneman, who made a juke swing and took him home to instantly take a three-point lead. Four on four with two field goalies and seven touchdowns during the day, peerless kicker Nick Conforti broke the extra point to take the Pirates to 24-7.
“These guys are making plays, they’re stock market talent,” Seton Hall coach Bill Fitzgerald said of his quarterback and receivers. “They should have a cursed offer now, and it’s a shame they haven’t received one yet.”
Linebacker James Palaia’s sack forced a Delbarton punt on the ensuing possession, and the Pirates played well again.
Craig at Dunneman for 8 was followed by that same duo for 45, and the ball was almost instantly at Delbarton 16. With 1:09 left in the half, Craig then connected with Mac for his second score of the day. , running the Seton Hall Prep takes advantage of 31-7 at the break.
“We have a good connection,” Mac said of his quarterback. “It’s amazing to play like we did today. My dad played and lost to Delbarton (in the 1989 North A playoffs) and beating them means a lot.
Seton Hall Prep took the lead less than five minutes later, when a red zone practice resulted in Conforti punching a 30-yard field goal.
The Pirates scored less than three minutes into the second half, when Thomason sprinted 4 yards around the left end to extend the lead to 10-0.
Delbarton would try to get back into the game in the second half and take to the air to do so.
On two occasions, Green Wave quarterback Robert Russo connected with David Link for touchdowns, both five yards in each quarter of the half. A brilliant wrong-headed passing game from their own 6-yard line allowed Russo to find a wide-open Link 55 yards on the left sideline to establish the second score.
Conforti’s 22-yard shot would represent the Pirates’ only goal in the second half.
Seton Hall Prep will now host the top-ranked Bergen Catholic in a showdown of two of the state’s best next week at West Orange.
“It’s better if it’s an intense atmosphere,” Fitzgerald said. “It will be a big day for football in this state.”
The NJ High School Sports newsletter now appears in mailboxes 5 days a week. Sign up now and be the first to get all the boys and girls sports you care about, straight to your inbox every day of the week. To add your name, Click here.