The Bergen Catholic football community has a new hero _ and he has nothing to do with Texas A&M or the Cleveland Browns.
His name is Johnny Langan and he’s just a sophomore, but the BC faithful has already given him a memorable moniker, one that was made famous by a Heisman Trophy winner. Langan is already being called “Johnny Football,” much like Johnny Manziel of the Browns. Langan rushed for 90 yards and scored two touchdowns and completed three passes for 57 yards, leading the Crusaders to a clutch 15-13 win over DePaul, a game that was played in Wayne and televised nationally on ESPNU. The Crusader Crazies, the loyal fans of the Bergen Catholic football team, were chanting “Johnny Football, Johnny Football,” in the closing minutes of the win, acknowledging the guy who was asked to replace one of the top high school football players in the country.
Jarrett Guarantano, one of the top 100 recruits in all of high school football, suffered a serious foot injury that may keep him out for the remainder of the season. Guarantano, who has given a verbal commitment to the University of Tennessee, already had huge games in wins over Paramus Catholic and St. Peter’s Prep, the two teams that faced each other for the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 4 state championship the last two years. So losing Guarantano to injury was thought to be a crushing blow. Guarantano completed 103 of 146 passes for 1,285 yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for 328 yards and six TDs. Those are First Team All-State type numbers.
“I guess in a weird way there’s a good side and a down side to this,” Bergen Catholic head coach Nunzio Campanile said. “It’s good that we have the experience of going through this already and saying, ‘Hey, we can win games in a lot of ways.’”
Guarantano missed some time last year with a wrist injury.
“The down side is obviously losing Jarrett when he’s been outperforming every player in the state week in and week out,” Campanile said. “He deserved the chance to compete for a state championship and an argument could be made that he was in the running for New Jersey Player of the Year.”
With the season hanging by a thread, Campanile had a choice between Patrick Holly or Langan at quarterback. Both got the chance to win the job. The one with the better nickname was the victor.
Langan gave his team a 12-6 lead in the third quarter, orchestrating a 65-yard drive, keyed by a 46-yard pass to Korab Idrizi. Langan’s 13-yard touchdown run gave the Crusaders a 12-7 lead that they would not give up.
Langan then had a brilliant 48-yard scamper that set up Michael Kearney’s 21-yard field goal that pushed the lead to 15-7.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a better feeling than I have right now,” Langan said. “This was a big game for me even before being named quarterback with Pat. It was in my hometown, on ESPN. What a night!”
Langan is from Wayne, so it made the evening extra special.
Langan also had a 1-yard quarterback keeper in the first half for the Crusaders’ lone score over the first two periods.
The Crusaders’ defense did an admirable job keeping top recruit Kareem Walker in check. Walker, one of the top running backs in the nation, had one big run of 22 yards and scored a late touchdown, but really wasn’t a factor in the outcome.
Guarantano is expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks with what has been described as a sprained ligament in his foot.
“When I can walk, I’ll play,” Guarantano said. “I’ll do whatever I can do to help my team win a championship.”
Right now, the Crusaders might have their man for the remainder of the season as well as the future in “Johnny Football.”
“Johnny is a great leader,” Campanile said. “He’s super tough. He’s got a tremendous arm and he’s a great runner. I have no concerns about their ability. It’s just an experience thing.”
It’s not known whether Campanile will utilize freshman Josh McKenzie more. McKenzie, who drew national attention last year for holding a press conference to announce what high school he was going to go to, has been sensational when given the chance several minutes.