HERSHEY, Pa. – It was a strange season.
It ended in familiar fashion.
The St. Joseph’s Prep football team won its third straight state title, its fourth in five years and sixth since 2013 on Saturday night with an emphatic 62-13 victory over Central York in the PIAA Class 6A final at HersheyPark Stadium.
The Hawks’ seniors stamped an exclamation point on their unparalleled careers by leading the way in a dominant performance that culminated a coronavirus-shortened season.
“This was special,” said senior all-purpose star Malik Cooper, a Temple recruit who caught a pass for one touchdown, threw a pass for another and returned a punt for a third. “We said in 2017, when that team lost [in the state final], ‘Never again.’ ”
Said senior quarterback Kyle McCord, who threw four touchdown passes, “That was the promise we made, and we kept it.”
St. Joseph’s Prep took a 38-7 halftime lead against the previously undefeated District 3 champions as McCord, Cooper and wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. turned the first 24 minutes of their final game into a highlight-film performance.
McCord, an Ohio State recruit, threw three touchdown passes in the first half. Two of them went to Harrison, who also is an Ohio State recruit.
“Just thankful to be able to be out here with my best friends,” Harrison said.
Cooper tossed a 55-yard strike to senior Sahmir Hagans with less than a minute to play in the second quarter. He added another score on a 55-yard punt return early in the third quarter to start a running clock under PIAA “mercy-rule” guidelines.
The victory cemented the legacy of the Hawks’ seniors as arguably the best class in school history. They are the first team from the city to win three state titles in a row, and the first to three-peat in the state’ largest classification since Central Bucks West in 1997-1999.
In the seniors’ four seasons in the program, St. Joseph’s went 44-3, finishing with 17 consecutive victories.
“This senior class will go down in history, " St. Joseph’s coach Tim Roken said. “Everybody will remember the records. But they are even better as young men.”
This season was unusual as the Hawks played just six games. It was the fewest games played by a St. Joseph’s Prep team since the 1932 squad went 5-1.
But these Hawks made the best of limited opportunities, building halftime leads of 38, 38, 42, 37 and 31 points in their last five games. McCord and Harrison set city records for career yardage and touchdowns, and Cooper turned his last game into a showcase of his dynamic athleticism, including a one-handed catch.
By their standards, the Hawks got off to a slow start as a McCord touchdown pass to Cooper was nullified by a holding penalty, and they settled for a 39-yard field goal by Antonio Chadha and a 3-0 lead.
But they quickly hit their stride as Noble House capped an 89-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, and House’s 25-yard run set up a 7-yard scoring pass from McCord to Harrison for a 17-0 lead.
The Philadelphia Catholic League power was just getting warmed up on a cold night. McCord found Harrison in stride on a picturesque 45-yard touchdown strike, then fired a 79-yarder to Cooper, who weaved through two defenders on his way to the end zone.
The Hawks capped the dominating first half as Cooper took a pitch on an end-around and fired a strike to Hagans. The Duke recruit raced to the end zone for a 38-7 lead.
“It just means so much to the seniors to finish this way,” Cooper said.
Central York 0 7 0 6 -- 13
St. Joseph’s Prep 10 28 17 7 -- 62
SJP: Antonio Chadha 39 FG
SJP: Noble House 1 run (Chadha kick)
SJP: Marvin Harrison Jr. 7 pass from Kyle McCord (Chadha kick)
SJP: Harrison Jr. 45 pass from McCord (Chadha kick)
CY: Jahmar Simpson 10 pass from Beau Pribula (Cole Luckenbaugh kick)
SJP: Malik Cooper 79 pass from McCord (Chadha kick)
SJP: Sahmir Hagans 55 pass from Cooper (Chadha kick)
SJP: Cooper 55 punt return (Chadha kick)
SJP: Chadha 48 FG
SJP: Cade Rooney 13 pass from McCord (Chadha kick)
SJP: House 6 run (Chadha kick)