By Phil Anastasia
Str. Augustine Prep football coach Mark Reardon knew his team was in deep water against Paramus Catholic.
He wanted to see if the Hermits could swim.
"You have to do this stuff," Reardon said after St. Augustine Prep took its lumps Monday in a game-like scrimmage against Paramus Catholic and its sensational all-purpose senior, Jabrill Peppers.
Paramus Catholic, which is No. 4 in USA Today's preseason Super 25 national rankings, built a 49-0 lead in one half of action on the Hermits' field in Richland, Atlantic County.
"I'v had a lot of people, even around here, ask me why I would do this," said Reardon, a former Villanova assistant who is entering his second year as St. Augustine Prep's coach. "This might be the biggest, fastest, most physical team we'll see all year. It might be the best high school team some of these guys will ever play against.
"But I wanted to give our kids the opportunity. I wanted them to understand how hard they have to practice."
The 6-3, 200-pound Peppers, a Michigan recruit rated as the No. 2 prospect in the country by Rivals.com, scored on a run of about 40 yards on his only carry as a Wildcats quarterback. He was used mostly as a decoy at wide-out in Paramus Catholic's spread offense.
Peppers made one crunching block to clear the way for a touchdown and also made several hard hits as a defensive back.
"He's a different kind of cat," Reardon said of Peppers. "If you drew a picture of what a D-1 running back looks like, he would be it. Physically, he was a man among boys out there."
St. Augustine went 8-2 last season, playing in the Cape-Atlantic National Division. The Hermits project again as the favorite in the far weaker of the league's two divisions, but Reardon wants his program to progress to the point where it can compete against North Jersey privater-school powers such as Paramus Catholic and Don Bosco Prep.
"It has to be done if you want to build a culture of winning football," Reardon said.
St. Augustine has some top seniors such as 6-6, 310-pound offensive lineman Mike McGrath, who has an offer from Monmouth, and 6-4, 180-pound wide receiver Austin Francisco (pictured).
But the Hermits will be young in key sports, with sophomore Jose Tabora at quarterback, and freshman Cashmir Phillips splitting time at running back with inexperienced junior Lamont Phillips.
"We've got a lot of young guys but they are coming along," Francisco said.
Of Paramus Catholic, Francisco said, "They're good and fast. Really fast."
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