If a jogger happened to have passed Upper Darby High School as two football teams exited the field on Saturday afternoon, he or she wouldn’t have been able to determine who had won the game.
So why was Father Judge not in a particularly good mood after its 21-13 victory over Bonner-Prendergast?
“We played better the week before (a 35-0 win at SCH Academy), but we didn’t play nearly as good today,” said Father Judge senior Jim Galasso. “I’m not sure exactly what it was. It’s not that we played badly. It’s just that we didn’t improve, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Judge was comfortably in front, 21-0, and appeared destined to capture its fourth consecutive shutout before a botched snap deep inside B-P territory resulted in a 78-yard fumble recovery touchdown with only 3:13 remaining in regulation, thus ending the team’s overall shutout streak at more than 17 quarters. B-P added a 48-yard touchdown connection with four seconds left.
With their fourth straight victory, the Crusaders (4-1) enter play in the rugged Catholic League Class AAAA Division this weekend against five-time defending champion La Salle (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., at Springfield Township High School), which handled previously undefeated Archbishop Ryan with relative ease, 28-14, on Saturday.
Although Judge is obviously pleased to have been so successful in its non-league portion of the schedule, this is the Crusaders’ time to issue a proverbial statement to the rest of the local football community, the one the Raiders failed to make.
“We’re all excited for this game,” Galasso said. “We definitely feel like we have a chance to show people how good we really are.”
That Galasso is considered by teammates and coaches as one of the team’s most heralded leaders is a testament to both his talent and his maturity.
When he transferred from New Jersey’s Holy Spirit High School as a junior, Galasso felt like he didn’t receive a fair shake to display what he could do on the football field. But then Mike McKay took over for Tommy Coyle after last season, igniting Galasso with a newfound energy.
“From the day I met him in the weight room all the way until today, Jim has been a great worker,” McKay said. “He’s a blessing to have.”
Competing as both a tight end and linebacker, Galasso was able to spend just about the entire B-P game on the field. While he considers himself more of a prototypical middle linebacker at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Galasso plays mostly on the outside.
Among those who have watched Galasso up close is sophomore Yeedee Thaenrat. Against Bonner-Prendergast, Thaenrat scored all three Judge touchdowns while collecting 105 yards on 15 carries. On defense, Thaenrat, who leads the Crusaders with nine touchdowns on the season, frustrated B-P’s best receivers in the secondary.
Thaenrat credited Galasso for much of his success, since he relies on Galasso’s blocking on offense and his coverage/tackling on defense.
“He’s very aggressive,” Thaenrat said. “He’s vocal. He’ll let everyone know what is going on. He’s definitely one of our best players. We count on him a lot. He’s one of the big reasons why we’ve been so good this year.”
If a Crusader makes a mistake, Thaenrat said Galasso quickly becomes a motivational cheerleader.
“He tells you to just shake it off,” Thaenrat said. “He says to go out and make the next play.”
Galasso’s levelheadedness perhaps stems from having two older sisters and six younger brothers. Two play at Father Judge; Anthony is a senior defensive end, and Matthew competes on the freshman team.
Among the family members who make every game are dad, Jim, and mom, Joanne. Galasso, also a standout wrestler in the winter, wears No. 44 because that was his father’s number when he played football.
“Our whole family is usually there,” Galasso said. “Then we end up going back home and having dinner.”
Could that conversation revolve around, say, football?
“Oh, that’s pretty much all we talk about,” Galasso chuckled. “It’s definitely something we share in common.” ••