ST. JOSEPH'S PREP 49, PINE-RICHLAND 41
HERSHEY, Pa. - When a 21-point lead gradually faded in the late going and never-say-die Pine-Richland was on the verge of pulling off an improbable comeback, Olamide Zaccheaus only had positive thoughts.
And the senior multipurpose threat shared those good vibes with St. Joseph's Prep boss Gabe Infante. "He came over to me and said, 'Coach, I got you. I would never let you down.' And he didn't."
Zaccheaus' two scores and end-zone interception of Ben DiNucci's final pass helped the Hawks escape the previously undefeated Rams, 49-41, Saturday night for their second consecutive PIAA Class AAAA state crown.
Down by 42-21, Pine-Richland rallied with three straight tallies and made it 42-41 with 2 minutes, 15 seconds remaining on DiNucci's 31-yard pass to wideout D'ondre Gastion. The District 7 titlists then decided to go for broke.
"It was a great call by them," Infante said. "They were down 21, fought all the way back, and had the momentum. We would have done the same thing."
With DiNucci under heavy pressure from lineman Joe DuMond, the Penn recruit's toss failed.
Like Zaccheaus, a Virginia commit, fellow speedster D'Andre Swift, an eye-popping sophomore, played a huge roll in the Prep's 10th straight victory.
Swift produced four second-half scores for the 11-3 Hawks, including two - a 58-yard burst and 48-yard catch and run - in the first two minutes of the third quarter.
"I was a little nervous before the game," said Swift, who added a 47-yard jaunt with 1:49 left. "Once the game started, I was fine."
The 5-foot-9, 200-pound Swift, whose 1-yard dive upped the Prep's lead to 42-21 with 9:25 remaining, carried 23 times for 226 yards.
DiNucci kept the Rams (15-1) in it until the very end by connecting on 32 of 46 passes for 383 yards and four TDs. "He's a great player," Infante said. "He's mobile, has great touch on the ball."
Zaccheaus turned a short pass from Jack Clements into a 56-yard tally in the first quarter. His 3-yard run in the third made it 35-14.
"This is great, but it's also bittersweet," Zaccheaus said. "I'll never get to play with this group of guys again. That's the hard part."
Clements converted 8 of 16 throws for 219 yards and four scores. In the second half, the Hawks wisely leaned on the Zaccheaus-Swift tandem, with help from James Bell and Benny Walls.
St. Joseph's Prep 7 7 21 14-49
Pine-Richland 0 14 7 20-41
SJP: Olamide Zaccheaus 56 pass from Jack Clements (Nick Bill kick)
SJP: James Bell 28 pass from Clements (Bill kick)
PR: Mike Merhaut 12 pass from Ben DiNucci (Adam Napotnik kick)
PR: Earnest Williams 3 run (Napotnik kick)
SJP: D'Andre Swift 58 run (Bill kick)
SJP: Swift 48 pass from Clements (Bill kick)
SJP: Zaccheaus 3 run (Bill kick)
PR: Connor Slomka 2 run (Napotnik kick)
SJP: Swift 1 run (Bill kick)
PR: Anthony Battaglia 4 pass from DiNucci (Napotnik kick)
PR: D'ondre Gastion 23 pass from DiNucci (Napotnik kick)
PR: Gastion 31 pass from DiNucci (pass failed)
SJP: Swift 47 run (Bill kick)