Since the playoffs began in 1974, few local high school football teams face a challenge as difficult as the one St. Augustine Prep confronts tonight.
The Hermits will meet one of the nation's top teams when they play at Don Bosco Prep (Bergen County) at 7 p.m. in a state Non-Public IV quarterfinal.
Don Bosco has won six straight state Non-Public IV titles. The Ironmen haven't lost to a New Jersey school since a 22-15 defeat to St. Peter's Prep in the state Non-Public IV 2005 final. Bosco again features many of the state's top players, including defensive end Alquadin Muhammad.
St. Augustine is making its first playoff appearance since 2009 when it lost to Seton Hall Prep 49-14 in the quarterfinals.
Hermits first-year coach Mark Reardon and offensive coordinator Charles Roman have talked about building a program that can compete with Bosco for state titles.
Tonight, the Hermits will measure themselves against the best.
Key players for St. Augustine Prep: Calvin Cass (above), RB, 173 carries for 1,643 yards and 30 touchdowns; Alex Hughes, QB, 60-of-107 for 802 yards and five touchdowns; Justyce Pollitt, WR, 12 catches for 113 yards; Andrew Nelson, 10 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns; Cory Pietrzyk, LB, 88 tackles.
Key players for Don Bosco Prep: Frank Nutile, QB; Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, RB; Spencer Scannell, LB; Alquadin Muhammad, DE; Razohnn Gross, DL; Tim Kennelly, LB, 91 tackles.
Keys to victory: The Hermits obviously know they are the underdog. Bosco will focus on stopping Cass. No matter what the outcome the Hermits will remember this game. It's not often a local team gets to face one of the nation's top programs
Who: Seventh-seeded St. Augustine Prep (7-1) vs. second-seeded Don Bosco Prep (7-1)
When/where: 6 p.m. today at Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey, Bergen Catholic
What's next: Winner advances to the semifinals the weekend of Nov. 30/Dec. 1 against the winner of Saturday's quarterfinal between sixth-seeded Notre Dame (6-2) and third-seeded Bergen Catholic (5-3).