Immaculate Conception's football team could possibly have used another scrimmage this preseason, but the calendar did not allow it. 

Immaculate’s defense came to play on Saturday, Aug. 27, at Pope John, but the offense did not get going until the fourth quarter.

The result was a 16-6 loss in the battle of the Lions in Sparta in a North Jersey Super Football Conference crossover contest, the season opener for both squads.

Immaculate head coach Maurice Lucas admitted that the team struggled, especially with the blocking assignments, through most of the game, with the offense struggling to even get across midfield. The Lions did not pass the 50-yard line until the fourth quarter.

Despite the loss, Lucas pointed to several positives that came from the battle. "I learned a lot today," he said. "I liked what I saw of the team, and it is something to build on."

One of the positives was the defense, which limited Pope John to one touchdown. 

Senior defensive end Dakota Carreras had a big day with a sack and a knockdown, while senior defensive back Jeremiah Thomas and junior defensive back Shuaib Abdul Karim each had a fumble recovery. Junior defensive tackle Maarad Watson and junior defensive back Jasin Shuggs added a knockdown each.

 "I thought the defense showed a lot," the coach said. "I'm not mad at the defense. I thought they played very well."

Immaculate Conception senior running back Marcus Gornowicz (6) looks to elude the Pope John defense. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
Immaculate Conception senior running back Marcus Gornowicz (6) looks to elude the Pope John defense. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
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One of the few bright spots for the Immaculate offense was freshman quarterback Davion Young, who came on in the fourth quarter to score the Lions’ lone touchdown.

A fourth-and-15 play from the Pope John 25-yard line was the highlight of the day for the Immaculate offense.

Young went back to throw but could not find an open receiver, so he took off and got some help from the line, weaving through the Pope John defense in front of his own sideline. 

The freshman signal caller would get into the end zone for six points on the 25-yard run. Young tried taking the ball in on a two-point conversion attempt but fell a yard short, but the Pope John lead had been sliced to 16-6 with seven minutes left in the contest.

Lucas said Young showed enough that he was expected to start this weekend against Newark Collegiate.

Immaculate Conception freshman quarterback Davion Young (17) avoids the tackle from Pope John's Jarrod Cofrancesco in the battle of the Lions on Saturday, Aug. 27 in Sparta. Young would run for a 25-yard touchdown on the play, but Immaculate Conception lost 16-6 in the season opener. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
Immaculate Conception freshman quarterback Davion Young (17) avoids the tackle from Pope John's Jarrod Cofrancesco in the battle of the Lions on Saturday, Aug. 27 in Sparta. Young would run for a 25-yard touchdown on the play, but Immaculate Conception lost 16-6 in the season opener. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
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"It was beautiful," the coach said about the run. "You don't see a freshman do something like that and stay poised like that."

Young took over for starting quarterback Jordan Jenkins, a sophomore, who was injured in the fourth quarter after his longest run of the day, a 24-yard scamper to the Immaculate 47 yard line. Jenkins struggled for the day, carrying 15 times for minus-17 yards, as he was hurt by the blocking issues on the offensive line.

But with Young under center, it seemed like the running lanes opened up, especially for senior running back Eriq Harris, who ran three times for 18 yards in the scoring drive. Harris had run seven times for 10 yards before the drive.

Despite the issues on offense, Immaculate was still only one-to-two scores down for the entire game.

And the Lions would have been in a scoreless tie through most of the game if it weren't for one of the top kickers in North Jersey.

Pope John had a key weapon in the foot of junior Jack Morgese, who already has been offered a scholarship to North Carolina State University. Morgese would hit three field goals for the day, including one from 43 yards out.

"I told them that I thought the game would come down to special teams and defense," Lucas said. "I knew that he could kick a field goal from 50 yards out."

With the opener in the rearview mirror, Immaculate takes on Newark Collegiate in the first game of the NJSFC National Red Division schedule at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3, at Newark Schools Stadium. Newark Collegiate defeated KIPP Cooper Norcross of Camden, 7-0, in an independent contest on Friday night, Aug. 26.

Immaculate faced Newark Collegiate in 2016 and 2017, splitting the two contests. The Lions won 28-20 in 2016 while falling to the Panthers in 2017, 26-6.