RED BANK – Senior running back Johnny Buchanan bulled his way to 231 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 26 carries and had a drive-killing interception that thwarted a Red Bank Catholic comeback bid powering Saint John Vianney to a 35-17 win over Red Bank Catholic Friday night at Count Basie Stadium.
The win extended the Lancers’ Shore Conference winning streak to 36 straight games dating back to the start of the 2014 season.
“This is a great win. For some reason it seems we’re always underrated,” Buchanan said after his team’s statement-making win. “Hopefully this will prove some things. Everyone had us losing so that was some big motivation for us right there. I think some of the reason we got doubted was some of our earlier opponents. So now that we got two tough teams (SJV beat Rumson last week) under our belt I feel like it’s going to help us tremendously in the playoffs.
“We go game-by-game, we just want to play one game at a time, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have RBC circled on my calendar. It’s our biggest rivalry game and it’s always fun to come out and play these guys. This was a confidence booster and will help as the season goes on.”
Saint John Vianney was holding a 28-17 lead with a little under five minutes left in the game with the Caseys facing a fourth-and-4 at the Lancers 16-yard line and in desperate need of a score.
RBC quarterback Stephen Lubischer had already hit tight end Kevin Bauman on slants over the middle for two touchdowns but the junior signal caller went to the well one too many times. He tried to find Bauman again over the middle but this time Buchanan was waiting for him and picked off the pass at the two returning it 30 yards to the 32-yard line.
“That’s film right there,” Buchanan said of his interception. “I saw on film that they liked that play and I knew the quarterback liked him so I read it and as soon as he dipped his shoulder I knew to break on the ball.”
On the play prior to his interception, Buchanan made a touchdown-saving tackle on Lubischer when it looked like Caseys quarterback had clear sailing into the end zone on a scramble.
Taking over at the 32 following Buchanan’s pick, a false start penalty moved the ball back to the 27-yard line. So now facing a first-and-15 from the 27 Buchanan took a handoff off right tackle and bolted down the right sideline for 53 yards all the way to the Caseys 20-yard line.
“That’s just my love of the game right there,” Buchanan said of his run following his pick. “I’ve always loved playing both linebacker and running back. It’s nothing different from when I was six years old, I’ve always played both ways and my dad always told me I better perform on both sides of the ball.”
Four plays later on second-and-goal from the two-yard line senior Zyaire Sterling took it in on a jet sweep to the left for a 35-17 lead with 2:51 remaining in the game as the Lancers scored 21 unanswered points to seal the victory.
The University of Delaware-bound Buchanan scored on runs of four and 44 yards rushing for 126 yards on 15 attempts in the first half but it was his 11 carries in the second half that helped the Lancers eat up valuable time off the clock and keep the ball out the hands of the Caseys potent offense.
“He’s like John Riggins was years ago with the Redskins,” Lancers head coach Derek Sininsky said. “He wants the ball forty times a game getting four yards, six yards 10 yards then he pops one for 60 yards. Then he doesn’t come off the field, he goes to linebacker. He’s like that Energizer bunny rabbit where he’s non-stop. And you know what; he’s very strong minded and has a great, great heart. Delaware is very lucky because the kid just loves the game.”
Saint John Vianney scored on their first two possessions of the game on two Buchanan runs and two Will Forman extra-point kicks to take a 14-0 lead. On the Lancers game-opening 68-yard scoring drive Buchanan had 48 of those yards on eight carries including his four-yard touchdown run.
Buchanan’s second touchdown run of 44 yards came on the second play of their second possession after getting a good roll on a Caseys punt and taking over at the 47-yard line.
“That’s all on my offensive line; without those guys I don’t know where I’d be,” Buchanan said praising his guys up front, including C.J. Hanson, Dominick Spano, Paul Liseno, Donovan Reiser, Alec Larson and Andrew McGimpsey. “Those guys are beasts up there and make my job a lot easier. I couldn’t be more grateful; they were opening up holes and making giant lanes for me to run through. Same on defense, the line was getting great push up front allowing me to be free and make a lot of tackles.”
With the score 14-0, a Ryan O’Hara 33-yard field goal and a four-yard Lubischer-to- Bauman touchdown reception pulled the Caseys to within four, 14-10, with 1:49 left in the first half.
The Lancers then went three-and-out and were forced to punt before RBC, having stolen the momentum, went 42 yards in five plays and were knocking on the door. But on first-and-10 on the SJV 32-yard line with three seconds remaining in the half, Sam East and Sterling combined to knock down Lubischer’s pass at the goal line as time expired.
The Caseys received the second-half kickoff and went 62 yards in 10 plays for a go-ahead touchdown overcoming a second-and-21 situation after a Nick Densieski 11-yard sack to take their first-and-only lead of the game, 17-14, after O’Hara’s extra point.
A Lubischer 19-yard pass completion to Jaden Key on second-and-21 and a 23-yard reception by Brandon Lombana gave the Caseys a first-and-goal at the five. Three plays later Lubischer found Bauman over the middle for the score and the lead.
Lubischer finished 16-of-25 for 215 yards and two touchdowns and an interception.
The Lancers then embarked on what could turn out to be a season-defining 78-yard, 14-play touchdown drive that ate up almost six minutes on the clock to reclaim the lead.
Starting at their own 21-yard the Lancers drove to the RBC 17-yard line where they were facing a third-and-6. Senior quarterback Haaziq Daniels then faked a handoff to fullback Josiah Walker who pulled it in and scampered around right end for the score giving the Lancers the lead for good, 21-17, with 1:37 left in the third quarter.
Buchanan had runs of 12 and 13 yards to help fuel the drive.
The two teams then traded punts and on the Caseys ensuing possession Densieski sacked Lubischer for a four-yard loss on third-and-10 forcing a RBC punt from the 18. Prior to the sack, Buchanan broke up a pass that had touchdown written all over it.
Densieski’s sack was his third of the game giving him seven for the season which could give him the Shore Conference lead depending on the outcome this weekend’s games. He also had numerous quarterback pressures that had Lubischer running for his life for much of the game.
“Nick’s just a beast off the edge and a great pass rusher,” Buchanan said of his defensive end. “When you have a kid like that who’s able to get back there so quick it will cause QB scrambles and mistakes and we capitalize on a lot of those plays thanks to 32 (Densieski’s number).”
“We’re one big family,” Densieski said of his team’s effort. “This is our hardest opponent we’ve faced so far. Rumson got us ready for this game last week but it was hard getting ready for them (RBC); they have weapons everywhere, but we fought our ass off.”
Saint John Vianney took over at the RBC 47-yard line following the punt and two plays later Sterling took the handoff from Daniels on a jet sweep cutting inside before breaking free for a 49-yard touchdown run and a 28-17 lead with 7:31 left in the game.
Sterling finished with 100 yards rushing (96 yards in the second half) on 11 attempts and two touchdowns and as a team the Lancers rushed for 345 yards on 47 carries.
Both teams suffered significant losses from injury. Caseys standout running back Zach Bair injured his left ankle in the second quarter and did not return and SJV safety/wide receiver A.J. Calabro went out with an arm injury in the second quarter and did not return either.
On Friday night Buchanan assumed the role of “Superman” playing on both sides of the ball while virtually being on the field the entire game. When he wasn’t torching the RBC defense he was wreaking havoc with his relentless play from his middle linebacker spot. He recorded double-digit tackles including one touchdown-saving stop along with a key interception and a crucial pass breakup.
“He’s one of those great, special players,” Sininsky said of Buchanan. “When people say a kid loves the game, Johnny truly loves the game. He trains all year round for it and he’s just always focused on football and Delaware is going to get that. I know he’s not 6-foot-4 but don’t be surprised if someday you see this kid playing special teams or linebacker in the NFL.”