Saturday
Dec102016

St. Joseph's Prep wins state title in dominating fashion

Reprint from Philly.com - By Rick O'Brien (Inquirer Columnist)

D'Andre Swift (with trophy) and the St. Joseph's Prep celebrate after their victory over Pittsburgh Central Catholic in the PIAA Class 6A State Championship at HersheyPark Stadium on Dec. 10, 2016. (Charles Fox/Staff Photographer)HERSHEY, Pa. - With an opportunistic offense and swarming defense, St. Joseph's Prep thoroughly dominated highly touted Pittsburgh Central Catholic to achieve perfection.

Neatly putting the finishing touches on a 14-0 campaign, the Hawks hammered the Vikings, 42-7, in the PIAA Class 6A final on Saturday night at chilly HersheyPark Stadium.

The Prep held District 7's Central Catholic, which went in averaging 48.9 points, to 133 yards rushing and 52 passing on 53 plays.

Gabe Infante's squad, which outscored its foes by 563-219 this year, captured its third state championship in four seasons.

"It's a great feeling for the senior class to go out like that," star running back D'Andre Swift said. "This was our goal, and we got it done."

The Hawks notched a pair of second-quarter touchdowns, taking advantage of a fumble recovery and a botched punt, to put the Vikings in a 14-0 hole.

On their first score, Swift followed linebacker Phil O'Connor's fumble recovery with a 34-yard TD burst.

Shortly after a flubbed punt gave the Prep the ball at the Central Catholic 35, quarterback Marquez McCray immediately connected with wideout Darryle Simmons along the right sideline for a 35-yard touchdown.

Some trickery gave the Hawks a three-TD cushion early in the third frame. Richard Carr accepted a pitch, rolled right, and tossed a 20-yard TD pass to fellow wideout Terrance Greene.

With just under 9 minutes left in the third quarter, Swift scored from the 1 to make it 28-0.

Central Catholic (14-2) finally found the scoreboard on Justice Evans' 19-yard burst at the end of the stanza. Greene returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards to make it 35-7.

Head Coach Gabe Infante of St. Joseph's Prep has a water cooler dumped on him by D'Andre Swift (right) and others as they celebrate their victory over Pittsburgh Central Catholic in the PIAA ^A State Championship at Hersheypark Stadium on Dec. 10, 2016. (Charles Fox/Staff Photographer)Swift carried 26 times for 140 yards and three scores. The Georgia recruit closed the scoring - and put the mercy rule into effect - on a 6-yard run with 3:58 to play.

"The score might not show it, but that was a good team we played," Swift said. "We just had a good game plan, buckled down, and went out there and got the job done."

Swift closed an outstanding high school career with 4,252 rushing yards. This season, despite being slowed by an ankle injury, he carried 148 times for 1,543 yards and 25 scores.

The Hawks' imposing offensive line was anchored by center Mack Grey, guards Jackson Evans and Carter Lynch, tackles Sal Cinaglia and Taron Hampton, and tight end Jack Crossed.

The defensive charge was anchored by linebackers James Johnson (13 tackles, with two sacks) and Bradley Cobaugh, ends Chris Lowndes and Rayshad Wallace, and strong safety Dillon DeIuliis.

Saturday
Dec102016

Three reasons St. Joseph's Prep is the best Class 6A high school football team in Pa.

Reprint from PennLive.com - By Eric F. Epler (Sports Writer)

In three PIAA title games, St. Joseph's Prep back D'Andre Swift has posted 434 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. He added three Saturday in the 6A championship at Hersheypark Stadium. (James Robinson/Staff Photographer)

St. Joseph’s Prep returned to Hershey Saturday and picked up its third PIAA football title in four seasons.

Backing up consecutive 4A titles in 2013-14, the District 12 Hawks (14-0) defeated Pittsburgh Central Catholic 42-7, claiming Pennsylvania’s first Class 6A championship. The Hawks were persistent on offense behind junior quarterback Marquez McCray and ferocious defensively.

In reality, the Vikings had little say in the PIAA nightcap. Here are three reasons why St. Joseph’s Prep is the best Class 6A high school football team in Pa.

1. D’Andre Swift

One player does not define a championship team but there is a reason the Georgia recruit is the state’s top-ranked all-purpose back. One might assume a pulsating defense like Pittsburgh Central Catholic’s could at least keep the 5-10, 205-pounder from breaking their backs. Well, Swift made the first move in a very tense, physical display late in the first half. Swift teleported 34 yards and delivered a 7-0 St. Joe’s lead following Anthony Tigano’s conversion kick. And even when Swift didn’t handle the ball he created plenty of assistance. With Swift gaining attention while lined up in the slot, wideout Darryle Simmons, on the opposite side, turned a simple hitch route 35-yards for a touchdown just before the half. Simmons broke a tackles from man coverage and upped the Hawks’ edge to 14-0. Swift carried 26 times for 140 yards and three scores. So in three championship games, Swift has combined for 434 yards and eight touchdowns.

Coach Gabe Infante and the Hawks celebrate title No. 3 in four seasons. (James Robinson/Staff Photographer)2. James Johnson and Chris Lowndes

We’re going to categorize this section as “defense,” but Johnson and Lowndes deserve the subhead. Johnson, a 5-11, 210-pound middle linebacker and Lowndes, a 6-2, 220-pound DE were terrific against Pittsburgh Central Catholic’s brutish blocking wall. Vikings’ top rusher J.J. Younger did break a 36-yard run, but finished with 62 rushing yards yards on 13 carries. Johnson accounted for eight tackles and two sacks. DE Rayshad Wallace also chipped in two sacks, another reason why PCC quarterback Troy Fisher, who absorbed a big hit on the final play of the first half, struggled. Fisher was just 5 of 16 for 52 yards.

3. Size, speed, and attitude

Roughly 20-25 committed or future Division I recruits were on the field at any given time Saturday. One group was particularly nasty, the Hawks’ massive front line. Across the board were tackles Taron Hampton (6-4, 290), Sal Cinaglia (6-3, 275), guards Carter Lynch (6-7, 310), Jackson Evans (6-4, 295), and center Mack Grey (6-1, 285). All are seniors and no doubt had plans to derail PCC’s ballyhooed defensive front. They did just that with smart, physical play. The Hawks were eager to return to Hershey after missing out on their chance for three straight a season ago. Gabe Infante’s crew didn’t miss this time.

Saturday
Dec102016

St. Joseph's Prep trounces Central Catholic, 42-7, in first PIAA Class 6A title game

Reprint from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - By Mike White (Sports Columnist)

Central Catholic quarterback Troy Fisher is sacked by St. Joseph Prep's Rayshad Wallace in the PIAA Class 6A championship Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium. (Matt Freed/Staff Photographer)

HERSHEY, Pa. — They staged the first 6A football championship in PIAA history Saturday night. For Central Catholic, it was hardly an inaugural ball.

It was pretty much a rotten experience for Central Catholic at Hersheypark Stadium. The Vikings’ offense that looked unstoppable in the postseason? Ahhh, not so much.

That impressive Central Catholic defense filled with future major-college players? It was reduced to a minor role.

Mighty St. Joseph’s Prep of Philadelphia made Central Catholic look rather ordinary, drubbing the Vikings, 42-7, to win the 6A championship against the defending champions. St. Joseph’s actually forced the mercy rule late in the fourth quarter. It was the third-worst postseason loss for Central Catholic since the Vikings joined the WPIAL and PIAA in the mid 1970s.

It was a sad — and surprising — ending to a fine season for Central Catholic (14-2). But it was a season that ended like it started — with a loss to a saintly bunch outside the WPIAL. In the season opener, Central Catholic was defeated by St. John’s of Washington, D.C.

Few could have expected a blowout in the PIAA championship, though. Central Catholic’s offense had breezed through the WPIAL regular season and the postseason was also a cinch. The Vikings entered the title game averaging 55.6 points in five playoff games.

But St. Joe’s certainly isn’t Seneca Valley or Pine-Richland. St. Joe’s was on a completely different level, winning its third PIAA title in four years. The Hawks came in 13-0, ranked No. 13 in the country by USA Today and they used their size and speed on the perimeter to lock up Central Catholic’s offense. Central Catholic had only 185 total yards and the Vikings lost four fumbles.

“I think we were on a little bit of a high streak coming in here, but it’s a different world out here playing them,” said Central Catholic quarterback Troy Fisher. “It’s different than WPIAL guys. Obviously they are a great team.”

Central Catholic’s only touchdown came on a 19-yard run by Justice Evans on the final play of the third quarter. That cut the lead to 28-7.

“We didn’t help ourselves, but that’s a darn good football team,” said Central Catholic coach Terry Totten. “I don’t even think they were as big as us on defense, but they’re very athletic and that presented a lot of problems. They are who we thought they were.”

St. Joseph’s offense got another strong game from star running back D’Andre Swift, a University of Georgia recruit who had 140 yards on 26 carries. St. Joseph’s had 345 yards offense.

St. Joe’s led, 14-0, at halftime. One score came after a Central Catholic fumble and the other came after a 19-yard punt gave St. Joe’s the ball at the Central Catholic 35 with 22 seconds left in the half. On the first play, St. Joe’s quarterback Marquez McCray hit Darryle Simmons with a pass to the sideline and Simmons broke free from Rodney Thomas’ tackle for a touchdown.

St. Joe’s other touchdown came after J.J. Younger fumbled at the Hawks’ 29. Two plays after McCray threw a 26-yard pass, Swift busted through the middle, bowled over a few defenders and took off on a 34-yard scoring play.

Monday
Dec052016

St. Joseph's Prep tops North Penn, heads to state title game

Reprint from Philly.com - By Rick O'Brien (Inquirer Columnist)

St. Joseph's Prep running back D'Andre Swift gets a hug on the sideline after scoring the final touchdown against North Penn late in the fourth quarter of a PIAA Class 6A state semifinal football game Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 at Northeast High. St. Joe's Prep won, 35-25. (Lou Rabito/Staff Photographer)Proudly holding a miniature cardboard cutout of her grandson, Helen Alston made her way from the bleachers to the field to offer congratulations to her favorite St. Joseph's Prep player.

"We got the cutouts on senior night," said Richard Carr, a multipurpose performer for the Hawks. "Ever since then, she brings it to all the games."

St. Joseph's Prep linemen Jackson Evans (&&) and Tarron Hampton (74) signal touchdown after Hawks running back D'Andre Swift accounted for the final TD against North Penn late in the fourth quarter of the PIAA Class 6A state semifinal football game Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 at Northeast High. St. Joe's Prep won 35-25. (Lou Rabito/Staff Photographer)Carr deserved the added exposure for his solid play in the Prep's 35-25 triumph over previously undefeated North Penn in a PIAA Class 6A state semifinal Saturday night at Northeast.

The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder returned the opening kickoff 39 yards, made a pair of first-half interceptions, and held his own at cornerback against standout Knights wideout Ricky Johns.

Carr made a first-quarter interception at the Prep 18. With the District 1 champs in the red zone in the second frame, he intercepted a pass in the end zone.

When Carr was matched on the outside against Johns, a 6-4, 190-pounder ticketed for West Virginia, he had to overcome the considerable size difference.

"At the beginning of the second quarter, my coach told me to follow him wherever he lined up," Carr said, referring to Gabe Infante. "He's very talented, but I liked the challenge."

The Hawks (13-0) will try to capture their third state title in four seasons when they take on District 7's Pittsburgh's Central Catholic (14-1) at 8 p.m. next Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.

D'Andre Swift sparked the Prep's offense by carrying 31 times for 268 yards and four touchdowns. The dynamic halfback and Georgia recruit sealed matters by scoring from the 27, 12, and 1 in the fourth quarter.

"He's an amazing player, a great teammate, and comes up clutch in pressure situations," Hawks senior defensive end Chris Lowndes said.

Swift's 28-yard scoring burst in the first quarter was answered early in the second by Reece Udinski's 14-yard pass to Johns. On the ensuing kickoff, Terrance Greene raced 82 yards to give the Prep a 14-7 halftime advantage.

On Udinski's 30-yard pass to Justis Henley and Kelly Macnamara's 28-yard field goal, North Penn (14-1) took a 17-14 lead late in the third.

It was Owen Verespy's block of Carr's punt attempt that set up Macnamara's go-ahead boot. "I tried to get it off as quickly as I could, but he got to it," Carr said. "I just had to forget about it and keep playing."

After Swift's second and third scores gave the Hawks an 11-point cushion, the Knights cut the gap to 28-25 on Nick Dillon's 37-yard TD catch and Udinski's conversion pass to Johns with 6:27 to go.

Lowndes came up big with 3 minutes remaining. With North Penn on the move at the Prep 39, he stripped Udinski on a 15-yard keeper and safety Dejuan Dandridge made the clinching recovery.

North Penn H.S.   0 7 10 8 - 25
St. Joseph's Prep  7 7 0 21 - 35

SJP: D'Andre Swift 28 run (Anthony Tigano kick)
NP: Ricky Johns 14 pass from Reece Udinski (Kelly Macnamara kick)
SJP: Terrance Greene 82 kickoff return (Tigano kick)
NP: Justis Henley 30 pass from Udinski (Macnamara kick)
NP: FG Macnamara 28
SJP: Swift 27 run (Tigano kick)
SJP: Swift 12 run (Tigano kick)
NP: Nick Dillon 37 pass from Udinski (Johns pass from Udinski)
SJP: Swift 1 run (Tigano kick)

Saturday
Nov262016

St. Joseph's Prep rolls into 6A semifinals

Reprint from Philly.com - By Rick O'Brien (Inquirer Columnist)

St. Joseph's Prep's D'Andre Swift leaps over Parkland's Juan Salas-Negron during the third quarter of a PIAA Class 6A state quarterfinal football game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016 at Northeast High. St. Joe's Prep went on to win, 38-17. (Lou Rabito/Staff Photographer)D'Andre Swift had an another stellar outing for St. Joseph's Prep on Saturday afternoon in a PIAA Class 6A state quarterfinal against Parkland.

The dynamic tailback gained most of the glory by carrying 18 times for a career-high 318 yards and two touchdowns in the Hawks' 38-17 triumph over the Trojans at Northeast.

As satisfying as the performance was for Swift, who was mobbed by well-wishers afterward, senior offensive lineman Jackson Evans was just as thrilled.

"There's nothing more rewarding than watching D'Andre run down the field and then get to celebrate with him in the end zone," he said.

With the 6-foot-4, 295-pound Evans as a season-long stalwart at left guard, the Prep is headed back to the state semifinals for the third time in the last four seasons.

"He's probably the most consistent player we have when it comes to his approach to the game," Hawks coach Gabe Infante said. "And he's a compassionate kid. He's shown that he genuinely cares for his teammates."

The Hawks (12-0) will take on District 1 champion North Penn (14-0) at 5 p.m. Saturday at Northeast for the chance to play for their third state crown on Dec. 10 in Hershey.

"It's a great feeling to be in this position," Evans said. "North Penn is very good, so we have to get back to work in practice and be prepared for them."

Evans, a second-year starter who is first-team all-Catholic League Red Division, has especially strong football bloodlines.

His father, Patt, who coaches the Prep's tight ends and long-snappers, starred at Strath Haven and the University of Minnesota and was a member of the developmental squad for the Dallas Cowboys.

His grandfather, Mike Evans, played at Boston College and was a center for the Eagles from 1968 to 1973.

"One of the great things about my family is that they never tried to push me into playing football," Jackson Evans said. "They said, 'Do whatever makes you happy.' I play because I genuinely like the game."

Evans was joined up front against District 11's Parkland (10-4) by fellow guard Carter Lynch, tackles Sal Cinaglia and Taron Hampton, center Mack Grey, and tight ends Jack Crossed and Nick DiPrinzio.

The Prep's Marquez McCray, who opened the scoring on an 11-yard keeper, connected on 12 of 16 passes for 142 yards. He hooked up with wideout Terrance Greene for TDs of 48 and 14 yards.

With the aid of two fumble recoveries and a blocked punt, the Trojans did all of their scoring in the first half and trailed by only 24-17 at the break. The Hawks gained breathing room on Swift's 6-yard TD run (he had a 59-yard jaunt three plays earlier) late in the third stanza.

A Prep defense that held Parkland to minus-23 yards rushing and 142 passing was led by linemen Chris Lowndes, Ryan Bryce (11/2 sacks), Jake Ballard, and Rayshad Wallace. Linebacker Phil O'Connor and safety Dejuan Dandridge made interceptions.

Evans is mulling scholarship offers from Air Force, Bucknell, Lafayette, and Lehigh.

Parkland H.S. 10  7  0 0 - 17
St. Joe's Prep 14 10 7 7 - 38

SJP: Marquez McCray 11 run (Anthony Tigano kick)
P: FG Brian Hanton 41
SJP: Terrance Greene 48 pass from McCray (Tigano kick)
P: Ethan Imler fumble recovery in end zone (Hanton kick)
SJP: FG Tigano 35
SJP: D'Andre Swift 21 run (Tigano kick)
P: Juan Salas-Negron 8 pass from Mike Ruisch (Hanton kick)
SJP: Swift 6 run (Tigano kick)
SJP: Greene 14 pass from McCray (Tigano kick)