Long after most folks, all completely drained, had left, and with nightfall moments away, Al Desiderio nudged himself next to Chris Fioravanti.

Family and friends wanted one last keepsake. Cameras clicked.

Cradling the championship plaque in front of his belly, Desiderio said to Fioravanti, "I've been walking around with this thing for 10 minutes. No one wants it."

Fioravanti laughed and shot back, "Take it home."

Each of these five-syllable-surname guys would have been justified.

As Roman Catholic stunned St. Joseph's Prep, 10-9, in a Catholic Red final Saturday that provided great theater throughout, but especially so in a last half-minute that long will be recounted, Desiderio earned hero status with two interceptions, three deflections and five tackles.

Fioravanti did nothing on offense or defense. See, he's a special-teams guy, and in this one, as he had through three varsity seasons, he made a series of bold-relief contributions.

With the wind whipping straight downfield toward the east end zone, Roman coach Jim Murphy opted to defer. He was putting trust not only in his defense, but also in Fioravanti's ability to power the opening kickoff into the end zone for a touchback.

It happened. The Prep went nowhere. Large lineman Jewhan Edwards (320 pounds), barely brushed let alone blocked, rumbled straight up the middle to block Tim Edger's punt and Andrew Regan flopped on the ball for a touchdown.

"I knew I could get one," Edwards said. "We noticed something. Their protection guy was maybe 175 pounds. I faked left, faked right, went past past him, blocked it. They didn't expect me to be so fast."

Just 2 minutes, 8 seconds into the game, Roman, a 36-7 victim during the regular season and a major whipping boy during the teams' last four (155-7) and eight (311-47) meetings, had exactly what it needed - a reason to make the Hawks have flashbacks to last year's final.

After crunching La Salle, 42-14, in the regular season, the Prep committed four turnovers within whiskers of the Explorers' goal line and wound up falling, 14-7.

Fioravanti added another end-zone kickoff. Again the Prep three-and-outed. When this drive stalled, Fioravanti hammered a 39-yard field goal that would have been good from 50, or more.

He wasn't finished.

After powering one more kickoff beyond the goal line, his duties for the rest of the day centered only on punting.

The snaps were shaky - three low, one high - on four of Fioravanti's seven punts. He controlled 'em all in flawless fashion and wound up averaging 34.3 yards, with an impressive against-the-wind norm (4-32.5).

"Chris did exactly what we needed him to," Murphy said. "I'm very proud of him."

"I have to do my job as a punter," Fioravanti said, "and it's everyone else's job to block them long enough that I can get it off. My kicking coach, Joe D'Angelo, always tells me, 'Stay calm under any condition.' He's the reason I'm here.

"If you work hard in practice and do things the right way there, it follows you into the game. You can handle the situations you're faced with. If I take care of my stuff and everyone else takes care of their stuff, we're fine."

Sounds simple, right?

It happened. Balial Lewis Sloan-El rushed 29 times for 118 yards, providing just enough ball control to limit opportunities for the Prep's explosive offense. Aside from Desiderio's picks, Regan recovered a fumble, Marty Bernard and Sean Clift halved 12 tackles while Chris Johnson (also the quarterback) and Reggie Irby joined Desiderio with five apiece.

As time wound down, the Hawks had posted only a 45-yard field goal by Edger - 2 yards short of the city's postseason record.

Then it happened. Fioravanti punted to the Prep's 23. Jim McGoldrick caught the ball and headed toward the left sideline. The wall-blockers did their job. McGoldrick evaded a diving tackle at midfield. Kept outrunning guys who thought they had angles. Unfurled a cut at the 14 that sent Fioravanti turfward, empty-handed. Steamed into the end zone with 28.5 seconds left.

Incredible! The Hawks and their fans were going crazy!

But overtime was not to be. Edger's point-after attempt clanged off the left upright. His following onside kick was recovered by Clift.

The Cahillites and their supporters stormed the field. They yelled, cried, sang the school song. Taking turns holding aloft the plaque, some of the players ran about three-quarters of the way around the track at Northeast High's Charlie Martin Memorial Stadium.

Joyous relatives of John Hoban, a passionate Roman supporter (and before that an all-Catholic player and coach) who died last summer, and whose No. 47 was retired Thanksgiving morning, insisted he'd influenced the outcome.

Soon, Fioravanti was discussing his role in this memorable win.

Chris, here's a chance. One kicker to another, do you feel any sympathy for Edger?

"I do," he said. "I've been in that situation. I know how it feels . . . That's the downside to luck. It doesn't always go your way."

Title tidbits

Though Prep has won 55 consecutive league games, it has been upset in four of the last eight finals . . . Balial Lewis Sloan-El finished the season with 2,141 yards, sixth-best one-season effort in city history . . . The Prep's Jamir Livingston (19-54) concluded his career 4 yards short of 4,000; he's sixth on that list . . . When Roman won the first Red title in 1999, its motivation was the memory of Bob Evans, a star lineman for the Cahillites and Penn and member of the previous championship team in 1947 . . . Sean Clift's brother Rob had a TD catch as Bishop McDevitt captured the first Blue title in '99. *

Though Prep has won 55 consecutive league games, it has been upset in four of the last eight finals . . . finished the season with 2,141 yards, sixth-best one-season effort in city history . . . The Prep's (19-54) concluded his career 4 yards short of 4,000; he's sixth on that list . . . When Roman won the first Red title in 1999, its motivation was the memory of , a star lineman for the Cahillites and Penn and member of the previous championship team in 1947 . . . brother had a TD catch as Bishop McDevitt captured the first Blue title in '99. *