The Pope John football team dropped to 0-3 with a 41-21 loss to Iona Prep (N.Y.) in the Battle for the Bridge on Saturday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

EAST RUTHERFORD -- The Pope John football team found itself against one of New York state’s best teams on Saturday afternoon.


And, playing in the spotlight at MetLife Stadium, the Lions showed some flashes of brilliance, but couldn’t put it altogether for a whole 48 minutes.


That ultimately equated to a 41-21 victory for Iona Prep (2-0) in the first annual Battle for the Bridge event at MetLife. Pope John, Delbarton, and St. Joseph Montvale were the squads representing New Jersey against Empire State competition this weekend.


Pope John, facing all high-level non-public competition thus far, dropped to 0-3 on the campaign with the loss.


"We didn’t play enough complementary football today," Lions coach Brian Carlson said. "Our defense played well in the first half, but our offense couldn’t finish off drives. In the second half, we got the offense rolling, but with (Iona Prep) running so many plays, we sort of tired out there."


The Lions cut what was, at one point, a 27-point deficit down to 34-21 with 3:12 left, when Delaportas found Connor Milks for a 59-yard touchdown pass.


Pope John’s onside kick attempt would be recovered by Iona Prep, which elected to throw for a score in the game’s final minute.


Gaels quarterback Darius Wilson, a thorn in the Lions’ side all day, accounting for five touchdowns, found Justin Joly on a 13-yard connection to seal the victory for the New Rochelle, N.Y., based squad.


Wilson got Iona Prep on the board under four minutes in, when his 5-yard run off left tackle capped off a 70-yard, 11-play drive for the winners.


On the ensuing drive, Pope John would drive all the way down to the Gaels’ 30, but Delaportas was intercepted by Marquis Dukes on a third-down pass attempt.


The locals received incredible luck after going three-and-out on their ensuing drive. A Gaels returner fumbled a punt, and Pope John’s Liam Gang was there to recover it at the Iona Prep 49. Pope John would advance to the 29, where it turned the ball over on downs.


Two drives later, and early in the second period, Pope John would move down to the Iona Prep 19, but Justin Hertlein’s 36-yard field goal try sailed wide left, ending another long Pope John drive without any points to show for it.


The Gaels added a late touchdown, with just 48 seconds left in the half, when Wilson found William Stone for a 17-yard score, putting the boys in Maroon and Gold side up 13-0 at half.


Iona Prep went up 20-0 when Wilson tossed his second of four touchdown passes, but Pope John quickly responded to get on the board.


Delaportas hit Vernon resident Omari Hutchinson on a 10-yard curl route, but Hutchinson made a defender miss and took it 72 yards to the house to make it 27-7 following Hertlein’s PAT. Delaportas finished 14-for-27 for 271 yards and two touchdowns on the day.


"He’s only a sophomore, but he threw the ball well today," Carlson said of his quarterback. "Peter will continue to get better as the season goes."


Wilson connected to Alex Williams for that pair’s second score with 7:18 to go in the third, and Pope John would respond when Jarelle Robinson -- the fastest man in the Herald area in the spring track circuit -- bolted from 23 out to cut it to 34-14.


Robinson finished with 99 yards on eight carries to go with his score.


Livingston, the only public school on its schedule, awaits Pope John next Friday night, when they will travel to face the Lancers in suburban Essex County.


"(Iona Prep) is one of the best teams in New York, and credit them for how they played today," Carlson said. "We’ll be ready to play next Friday night, and we’re expecting a good night."


Iona Prep 41, Pope John 21


IP 7 6 21 7 -41


PJ 0 0 7 14 -21


First quarter


IP -- Darius Wilson 5 run (William Fox kick)


Second quarter


IP -- William Stone 17 pass from Wilson (kick failed)


Third quarter


IP -- Alex Williams 25 pass from Wilson (Fox kick)


PJ -- Omari Hutchinson 72 pass from Peter Delaportas (Justin Hertlein kick)


IP -- Franklin McFadden 12 run (Fox kick)


IP -- Williams 25 pass from Wilson (Fox kick)


Fourth quarter


PJ -- Jarelle Robinson 23 run (Hertlein kick)


PJ -- Connor Milks 59 pass from Delaportas (Hertlein kick)


IP -- Justin Joly 13 pass from Wilson (Fox kick)


Records: Iona Prep 2-0, Pope John 0-3