So much has changed in the last year for the Holy Cross football team.
One thing is the same: The Lancers are back in the Non-Public 2 state championship game.
Under new coach Tim McAneney, who brought a run-first offensive philosophy to the pass-happy program in Delran, the Lancers have overcome a few obstacles and put themselves in position to win another state title Sunday at Rutgers.
"Even if I was a passing coach, we would have faced an adjustment because of changes in terminology and other ways we do things," said McAneney, whose team will play Hudson Catholic in the championship game. "But I'm a run guy. So it's been a change in philosophy in a lot of ways.
"But these kids have battled and fought, and now they have a chance to win another state championship."
Top-seeded Holy Cross faces a familiar-looking foe in second-seeded Hudson Catholic. Both teams are 7-3, and both feature sturdy defenses and ground-oriented offenses.
"You'll probably see more passes in warm-ups than you will in the game," Hudson Catholic coach Bob Stern said. "We don't make any secret about it. We believe you win football games by running the football."
Hudson Catholic reached the final by beating St. Joseph of Hammonton, 3-0, in the semifinals. The Hawks are led by 6-foot, 190-pound senior running back Jason Hendricks, who has rushed for 1,687 yards and scored 25 touchdowns.
Stern said Hendricks had been offered scholarships by Pittsburgh, Temple, Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan, among other schools.
"He can fly," McAneney said. "They've got speed all over the field. They are very aggressive, but the main thing is their team speed. They can just move."
For years, Holy Cross was a pass-oriented team that featured quarterbacks such as Jason Amer, Matt Burdalski, Rob Curley and Tommy Reilly, as well as receivers such as Mike Osborne, Isaac Irby and James Townsend.
Reilly graduated last year after setting the South Jersey record of 64 career touchdown passes.
But under McAneney, the Lancers have become a run-oriented team that features a balanced backfield in halfbacks Kevin Raymond, Dan Dash and Dai'Shon Munger, and fullback Aaron Fant. Quarterback Austin Stein is a shifty runner as well.
In a 25-7 victory over Bishop Eustace in the semifinals, the Lancers attempted their first pass late in the third quarter, on their 37th play from scrimmage.
"They are big and thick up front, and they play hard-nosed football," Stern said. "I love the kid Dash. He's a tough, tough runner."
Fant and fellow linebacker Joe Wojceichowski, along with cornerback Elijah Phillips, who is battling a shoulder injury, lead the Holy Cross defense.
"We know they have a great tailback and we have to contain him," Fant said, referring to Hendricks. "If we can do that, we should be in good shape.
"We have some guys back from last year, so we have experience. We've been there. We know what to expect."
McAneney said Dash had made progress from a lingering ankle injury and showed "some of his old burst" in a 28-7 loss to Moorestown during the Thanksgiving weekend. Raymond also is set to return from an ankle injury, after missing most of the last three games.
"We're a Non-Public 2 school, so we don't have a lot of depth," McAneney said. "We've had to patch it together a little bit this season because of injuries, but that's high school football. Every team goes through that.
"We set some goals in the summer. The first thing was that we would play as a team and believe in each other. We wanted to win our conference, and we weren't able to do that, and we wanted to win a state championship.
"Here it is in early December and we're still playing. That's a credit to these kids. They have an opportunity to finish this thing off with another state championship."
Non-Public 2 Final
Holy Cross (7-3) vs. Hudson Catholic (7-3), Sunday, 11 a.m., at Rutgers.
Holy Cross, Tim McAneney (7-3 in first season; 44-48 in nine seasons at Bishop Eustace). Hudson Catholic, Bob Stern (49-31-1 in eight seasons).
Holy Cross is No. 1. Hudson Catholic is No. 2.
Road to the final:
Holy Cross beat fourth-seeded Bishop Eustace, 25-7, in the semifinals. Hudson Catholic beat third-seeded St. Joseph of Hammonton, 3-0.
Last year's final:
Holy Cross 17, Gloucester Catholic 0.
Previous state titles:
Holy Cross, 2 (2007, 2000 in Non-Public 4). Hudson Catholic, 0.
Holy Cross won four South Jersey Parochial A titles between 1977 and 1992.
- Phil Anastasia
A Look Back
How Holy Cross and Hudson Catholic have fared during the season:
Holy Cross (7-3)
W-Sept. 19, Bishop Eustace, 21-14, OT.
W-Sept. 26, at Willingboro, 27-6.
W-Oct. 4, at Camden, 14-6.
L-Oct. 10, at Camden Catholic, 27-0.
W-Oct. 17, Burlington City, 27-6.
W-Oct. 24, Cinnaminson, 22-0.
L-Nov. 1, Delran, 20-13.
W-Nov. 7, at Paul VI, 35-7.
W-Nov. 21, Bishop Eustace (Non-Public 2 playoffs), 25-7.
L-Nov. 28, at Moorestown, 28-7.
Hudson Catholic (7-3)
L-Sept. 13, St. Joseph by-the-Sea (N.Y.), 29-7.
L-Sept. 20, at Paramus Catholic, 20-15.
W-Sept. 27, Lincoln, 39-20.
W-Oct. 3, Ferris, 33-14.
W-Oct. 10, at Marist, 50-0.
W-Oct 18, Snyder, 49-0.
L-Oct. 24, at Hoboken, 24-7.
W-Oct. 31, at Bayonne, 44-13.
W-Nov. 8, Union City, 34-27.
W-Nov. 22, St. Joseph of Hammonton (Non-Public 2 playoffs), 3-0.