Perhaps first impressions aren’t everything.
In Week 1, DePaul absorbed a crushing, 43-3 loss to St. Joseph Regional, but has since been perfect. And after rattling off a 35-0 victory over Lakeland on Friday evening, it’s safe to call the Spartans legitimate Non-Public Group 3 championship contenders.
"Week 1, I'm sick of talking about it. We made mistakes then," coach John McKenna said. "But our defense was tremendous tonight. It was the best we've played all year. I've never seen them play better."
Joe Moreno scored two rushing touchdowns and Kiy Hester hauled in two scoring strikes as they wrapped up a big win over a Big North foe in a live broadcast on MSG Varsity iO Ch. 14.
DePaul, which extended its winning streak to seven games, has risen to No. 19 in the MSG Varsity Tri-State Top 25 and stands at No. 13 in the current New Jersey rankings.
While the Spartans are aiming to take care of their own business, they will also continue to have eyes on the local scoreboard, too.
With No. 17 St. Peter’s (Bergen Catholic), No. 13 Pascack Valley (St. Joseph Regional) and No. 11 Immaculata (Elizabeth) facing tough opponents this week, DePaul could rise higher in the tri-state poll.
"We came out to practice after Week 1 and we changed everything up," Hester said. "This was one of our best efforts. Our run defense was great."
Fresh off a 35-14 triumph over Tenafly, the Spartans are clicking on all cylinders. Their defense has been terrific, holding opponents to 38 combined points in the last five weeks.
Their defense was as good as advertised in this one, too. The defensive line held Lakeland quarterback Joey Engels and heralded wide receiver Jason Fuehrling at bay, paving the way for the offense to take over.
Moreno opened the scoring with a 44-yard touchdown run with 2:57 left in the first. Moreno followed up with a 3-yarder just two minutes into the ensuing quarter to double the advantage to 14-0.
Trequan Knighton got on the board by hauling in a 16-yard scoring strike with 46 seconds remaining in the half, and a fumble recovery near midfield shortly thereafter led to Massimo Aronson’s 23-yard score with six seconds on the clock.
Hester notched a 45-yard touchdown as time expired in the third, helping DePaul increase its cushion to a commanding 35-0.
Lakeland, which entered having won four of five, dropped to 5-3 overall. The Lancers were edged by a margin of 424-104 in total yards against a team thinking big about the upcoming playoffs.
"If we play like we did tonight," McKenna said, "I like our chances."
Contact Brian Fitzsimmons at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @FitzWriter