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St. Joseph’s Prep senior Blake Romano is big-play defender

The senior lineman's contributions in the state semifinals included two sacks, two tackles for loss and a one-handed interception.

St. Joseph's Prep defensive lineman Blake Romano played one of the best games of his career in the state semifinals vs. Central Catholic of Pittsburgh.
St. Joseph's Prep defensive lineman Blake Romano played one of the best games of his career in the state semifinals vs. Central Catholic of Pittsburgh.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

The second-best catch for St. Joseph’s Prep in the state semifinals wasn’t made by a wide receiver or a running back.

That wasn’t a defensive back or linebacker with a one-handed snag of an interception that led to a go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter vs. Central Catholic of Pittsburgh.

That was senior defensive lineman Blake Romano, making the first interception of his career in athletic, acrobatic fashion.

“Felt amazing,” Romano said of his grab of a deflected screen pass. “I actually was late to redirect the screen, and I just saw the ball.”

One play after Romano’s interception, the Hawks scored on a 14-yard end-around by junior Sahmir Hagans for a 17-10 lead.

Romano, a converted linebacker, made several big plays in St. Joseph’s Prep’s 31-24 victory last Saturday at Altoona’s Mansion Park Stadium.

St. Joseph’s Prep, which advanced in large part because of junior Marvin Harrison’s sensational touchdown catch with 0:15 to play in regulation, will meet Central Dauphin in the PIAA Class 6A state final Saturday, 6 p.m., at Hersheypark Stadium.

“It was crazy, a great team win,” Romano said after the dramatic victory over Central Catholic. “Everyone did their job.”

Romano, a linebacker for most of his career who switched to defensive end this season, might have played the best game of his senior year in the state semifinals.

He generated two sacks and two tackles for loss, as well as picking up his first interception since his youth football days for the Lansdale Cannoneers.

“He’s a young man who has had a roller coaster of a year after he switched positions to play defensive end,” St. Joseph’s Prep coach Tim Roken said. “He’s really made some big plays in big moments. He was all over the place [vs. Central Catholic].

“He was in the right place at right time and able to get hold of that one. That was a huge play for us.”

Romano, who lives in Blue Bell, isn’t certain of his plans for next year.

“I’m just worried about next week, one more week with my team,” Romano said.

The state final could hinge, in large part, on the play of St. Joseph’s Prep’s defensive front seven, since Central Dauphin will look to control the football and the clock with its powerful ground game.

Central Dauphin’s front line, which features Temple recruit Bryce Thoman and Air Force recruit Chad Layton, will present a challenge for St. Joseph’s defenders such as Romano and fellow senior lineman Anthony Leneghan, as well as senior linebacker Liam Johnson and others.

“All I try to do is my job,” Romano said. “That’s all I work on all week, doing my job. That’s the big thing for us, everyone doing their job.”

For Romano, that means down-and-dirty work in the trenches, with the occasional sack and takedown in space.

And on truly special occasions, a diving, one-handed interception.