By Phil Anastasia
Josh Van Blarcom ran off the field with as much speed and lots more purpose than during any play in the South Jersey Group 1 championship game.
Van Blarcom found his best friend's mom and embraced her as Pennsville's players reached to the brilliant blue sky in celebration of the program's first sectional title since 1981.
"We did it," Van Blarcom whispered in Crystal Parks' ear. "We finally did it."
The 28-6 victory over Clayton in the sectional title game at Rowan University was overwhelmingly emotional for the Eagles, who dedicated the season to Parks' son and Van Blarcom's buddy, senior Kyle Pszenny.
"I can't even find the words," Pennsville coach Ryan Wood said. "I'm fumbling trying to describe it.
"It brings tears to my eyes. You couldn't write a better story."
Pennsville seniors Ryan Simpkins, Jeremy Boucher and Matt Widmaier -- three of the team's captains, along with Van Blarcom -- were in tears during the trophy presentation, when they pushed Pszenny's wheelchair to midfield and put the hardware on their injured teammate's lap.
"I can't even describe that that was like," Simpkins said. "To do that for him . . . "
Junior quarterback P.J. Halter, who passed for 162 yards and a touchdown, could barely talk about his own superb play.
"These kids," Wood said, shaking his head in wonder, "they've handled this better than adults."
Pennsville's players and coaches decided in June that this season would be dedicated to Pszenny, a top wide receiver who was severely injured when he was struck by an automobile while riding his skateboard on the night of June 7.
"The support has been overwhelming," Parks said. "Even Kyle's doctors and physical therapists said that without so much support from his teammates, Kyle wouldn't have come as far as he's come.
"What 17- and 18-year-old kid learns how to do physical therapy and occupational therapy to help out their best friend? That's what these kids have done."
Pszenny sustained severe brain damage as well as broken bones and a dislocated neck in the accident and still has a long road ahead of him, according to his mother. He was in a coma for three weeks.
Pszenny came home on Monday after spending more than five months at A.I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington. He had been home for for four hours on Thanksgiving "as a trial run," Parks said.
On Friday, Parks hosted the entire Pennsville program at her home for a dinner, giving all the Eagles a chance to see their teammate on the eve of the biggest game of the season.
"That was emotional," Van Blarcom said. "Just everybody getting to see him, knowing we had to play this game today, playing for him."
Boucher, who caught five passes for 126 yards and a touchdown, said Pszenny always told his teammates that a South Jersey Group 1 title was within their reach.
"He always used to say that the guys that came before us set a bunch of records but they never won a title," Boucher said. "This is what he wanted.
"To be able to get it for him, it's amazing. It's a greatest feeling in the world."
Parks said her son and his buddies talked of winning a South Jersey title "since they were knee-high to a grasshopper."
On Saturday, they gathered around his wheelchair, with Van Blarcom holding tight to his friend's right hand, after making their dream come true.
From a short distance away, Pszenny's mom watched with tears in her eyes.
"It means everything," Parks said. "This is what Kyle wanted more than anything. This is what these boys wanted for him."
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org