New-look Celtics open season with road romp of Seahawks

Joseph Landy (56), a new arrival at St. John Neumann via Barron Collier High School, makes a tackle during the Celtics' season-opening win Friday at Community School of Naples. SAMANTHA HUSSEY/SPECIAL TO CSI


Neumann Celtics Start Season with Win over CSN Seahawks 

Fresh off their landmark 2018 football season, the St. John Neumann Celtics were supposed to host a preseason game against Admiral Farragut on Aug. 16. Due to inclement weather, though, the tuneup for the 2019 regular season was canceled.

The cancellation may have actually caused the excitement level surrounding Neumann football to be ratcheted up a notch as the season opener against longtime rival Community School of Naples approached.

Senior J.P. Raiger certainly was ready to go Friday night against the host Seahawks. He returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and the Celtics never looked back in a 56-3 victory.

PHOTOS: View images from the Celtics-Seahawks opener

The Seahawks almost answered Raiger’s score with a kickoff return touchdown of their own — almost. Neumann was quick to bring CSN’s kick returner down at the 25-yard line, and the only points on the board for CSN came from a 39-yard field goal.

The Celtics continued to play hard, helping them to negate a few mistakes along the way, as expressed by coach Damon Jones. The second half began with a running clock and Neumann enjoying a 43-3 lead. 

New Celtics quarterback Mike Joyce completed all three of his passes — two of which went for touchdowns. Joyce took over the reins from coach Jones’ son, Jensen, who led Neumann to its first-ever playoff victory last fall while claiming Class 2A Player of the Year and Winged Foot Award honors. (Jensen Jones is now at Air Force Academy as part of its 2019 recruiting class.)

Several other Celtics managed to score touchdowns Friday, including Daniel DeSantis, Justin Mathieu and Kevin Pierre. 

“Mike Joyce played a great game (and) J.P. Raiger played a great game both offensive and defensively,” said Jones, who added that Joe Landy and Jake Glasser also turned in strong performances. 

St. John Neumann lost many of its key players from the 2018 squad to graduation, leaving the team with many spots to fill. That doesn’t apply to the Celtics’ offensive line, however, which returned all five starters.

With a young Celtics backfield, coach Jones is relying on his bigger guys up front to provide stability for the offense. He said they played well Friday.

Neumann’s offensive line — which includes Joe Landy, a senior transfer from Barron Collier High School — is comprised of two-, three- and four-year starters.

Asked how he was adjusting to his new team, Landy said, “It’s been pretty easy. Everyone is super supportive and has been a big help in learning the plays for both sides of the ball in such a short amount of time. I couldn’t ask for a better bond I share with my new brothers.”

Facing a tough schedule that includes Oasis, Bishop Verot, IMG Academy (White) and Lemon Bay, Jones said his expectations for this year are centralized around the idea of being collectively successful and continuing to build depth.

Neumann begins its 2019 home slate Friday when it hosts Oasis (1-0), which earned a 17-13 win at Lakeland Christian last week in its season opener.