EWING, N.J. - The unbridled elation that generally follows a state championship was a bit lacking.
With his players huddled around him, St. Joseph football coach Paul Sacco addressed his team almost casually.
"This is a great win," Sacco said after the Wildcats' 33-13 victory over St. Mary in Saturday's Non-Public Group 1 state final. "Now we have to get ready for the next time around."
Even with a mid-game surge by St. Mary, the cold afternoon at the College of New Jersey felt like little more than a formality.
This was the fourth year in a row that St. Joseph (11-1) topped St. Mary (9-3) in this game. The three previous contests were tilted in the Wildcats' favor by a composite score of 127-0.
This was the fifth consecutive state title for St. Joe.
"An incredible feeling," sophomore quarterback Salaam Horne said.
But even that didn't seem like the most significant aspect of the afternoon.
Instead, most striking were the athleticism and young talent of St. Joseph - the fact that all but three starters on the field will return next year, that anything less than a couple of more state titles in a row would be a disappointment.
"We have high expectations for next year," Wildcats junior running back Rocco Ordille said. "The coaches have it. We have it for ourselves. We know we have to come back and prove ourselves."
Saturday, Ordille (16 carries, 85 yards) scored the first of his two touchdowns during a nine-play drive that established St. Joseph as the bigger, stronger, faster, deeper, and more talented team.
The Wildcats controlled the game despite not looking particularly sharp for stretches - something that caught up with them in the third quarter.
With 5 minutes, 42 seconds left in the period, St. Mary running back Keon Banks, on a halfback pass, connected with Michael Polonkay for a 34-yard score.
Horne fumbled on the ensuing drive, and for a brief period, the Gaels appeared to have momentum.
But that was halted by Ordille's second touchdown, a 45-yard run with 9:31 left to make the score 26-7.
Horne (9 carries, 81 yards; 5 for 10 passing, 55 yards), who also had a 25-yard interception return for a late TD, and his twin, A'Laam Horne (6 carries, 54 yards, 1 TD; 1 reception, 33 yards) remained the figureheads of the team's depth and talent.
The Hornes routinely looked to be on a completely different level, in terms of skills, than their opponents. And, yes, the brothers are still just sophomores, already thinking about what should be an incredibly bright future.
"This season taught us that no matter how old or young you are, you can come out and play well and succeed if you work hard," Salaam Horne said. "And we know next year could be even better."
St. Mary 0 0 7 6 – 13
St. Joseph 12 7 0 14 – 33
SJ: Rocco Ordille 17 run (run failed)
SJ: A'Laam Horne 34 run (run failed)
SJ: C.J. LaFragola 5 run (Jonathan Ryker kick)
SM: Michael Polonkay 34 pass from Keon Banks (Kevin Woupes kick)
SJ: Ordille 45 run (Ryker kick)
SJ: Salaam Horne 25 interception return (Ryker kick)