By Phil Anastasia
Inquirer Staff Writer
West Deptford senior Paz Gismondi relishes every chance to play football with his brother Gio.
"I couldn't be more thankful," Paz Gismondi said of the opportunity to spend one final season with his younger sibling.
Playing in their penultimate game together, the Gismondi brothers helped visiting West Deptford to a 21-18 victory over Paulsboro in a Colonial Conference clash on Saturday.
Paz Gismondi caught a touchdown pass and Gio Gismondi ran for 92 yards and lifted a crucial late interception for West Deptford (11-0), the No. 7 team in The Inquirer Top 25 rankings.
Junior Kyle Jones passed for a pair of touchowns and returned a fumble for a score and senior John Pellegrini caught two touchdown passes for Paulsboro (8-3).
"They played their hearts out," Paulsboro coach Glenn Howard said of his players. "I couldn't be more proud of them."
The annual Thanksgiving weekend clash between the old rivals carried extra significance because it was the last Colonial Conference game.
All the teams in the Colonial Conference will join the West Jersey Football League in 2016.
In addition, there has been speculation that Paulsboro and West Deptford might not continue their series , which began in 1981.
Glassboro has been mentioned as a possible Thanksgiving rival for Paulsboro while Deptford is a potential opponent for West Deptford.
"I don't know what's going to happen," Howard said of the rivalry. "I haven't given it much thought. I've been focused on getting my team ready to play."
Howard and West Deptford coach Clyde Folsom spent some extra time together in the handshake line after the game, with Folsom telling his counter-part, "There's none better."
West Deptford played without senior RB Alex Malcolm and junior RB Quran Dozier, both of whom were sidelined by knee injuries.
Senior quarterback/defensive end Nick Diaco wore Malcolm's No. 2 in honor of his injured teammate.
Diaco ran for one score, passed for another and register three sacks for West Deptford, which now turns its full attention to preparing for the South Jersey Group 2 title game Dec. 6 vs. Cedar Creek at Rowan.
Dozier, who leads West Deptford with 18 touchdowns, could return for the Cedar Creek game.
"Coach told us to regard this game as a championship game," Gio Gismondi said. "He didn't even want us thinking about Cedar Creek."
Paulsboro, which lost to Pennsville in the South Jersey Group 1 semifinals Nov. 20, played without star senior quarterback Carlton Aiken, who was sidelined with a knee injury.
Jones fired a pair of touchdown passes to Pellegrini, who wore Aiken's No. 15 in honor of his teammate. Jones rumbled 60 yards with a fumble up the left sideline in front of the West Deptford bench to pull the Red Raiders within 21-18 with nine minutes, three seconds remaining.
Paulsboro drove to the West Deptford 19 with a little less than three minutes to play, but Gio Gismondi intercepted a deflected pass to end the Red Raiders' last serious threat.
"Lucky bounce," Gio Gismondi said. "Right place, right time."
Gio Gismondi has emerged as one of the Eagles' top athletes this season. He said his brother has been part of his success.
"He's like a 'mom' by my side," Gio Gismondi said of his brother. "He always takes care of me."
Paz Gismondi played football as a freshman, sat out two seasons and returned as a senior for one last chance to play with his brother.
"It ate at me," Paz Gismondi said of sitting out. "I love the kid. He's the kind of kid that everybody turns to."
Paz Gismondi said it was "amazing" that his final game with his brother will be for the South Jersey title and an undefeated season.
"It's like icing on the top," Paz Gismondi said.
West Deptford 0 14 7 0 -- 21
Paulsboro 6 0 6 6 - 18
P: John Pellegrini 27 pass from Kyle Jones (kick fail)
WD: Elijah Pratt 6 run (Mike Bilodeau kick)
WD: Nick Diaco 3 run (Bilodeau kick)
WD: Paz Gismondi 38 pass from Diaco (Bilodeau kick)
P: Pellegrini 4 pass from Jones (pass fail)
P: Jones 60 fumble return (pass fail)
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at email@example.com