PISCATAWAY, N.J. - A goal-line stand.
A novice punter whose booming kicks changed field position.
And one big play on offense.
Mixed together on a cold and windy afternoon, they added up to another state championship for the Holy Cross football team.
Led by seniors Elijah Phillips and Aaron Fant, the Lancers scored a 7-0 victory over Hudson Catholic yesterday in the state Non-Public 2 title game at Rutgers Stadium.
"Two in a row is a great feeling," said Fant, a linebacker who led the Lancers with 15 tackles and also rushed seven times for 21 yards as a fullback.
Holy Cross (8-3) won back-to-back state crowns for the first time in the program's history. In championship games at Rutgers the last two seasons, the Lancers have not allowed a point.
Phillips, a wide receiver and defensive back who also is the Lancers' punter, made the play of the game. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound athlete from Willingboro scored the only touchdown on a 39-yard reception with 7 minutes, 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
"I made one guy miss, and I saw a lot of green," said Phillips, who took a quick screen pass from quarterback Austin Stein and slipped behind blocks from running back Dai'Shon Munger and tackle Mike Howley. "I said, 'Don't let anybody catch you.' "
Fant led the defense along with Phillips, who had 12 tackles, and linebacker Joe Wojcheichowski, who made nine.
The Lancers rose to stop Hudson Catholic after the Hawks had a first-and-goal opportunity from the 2-yard line midway through the third quarter.
"That was the turning point of the game," Fant said.
Hudson Catholic's Angel Hernandes, who had kicked a 25-yard field goal on the last play of the Hawks' 3-0 victory over St. Joseph's of Hammonton in the semifinals, missed a 21-yard attempt on the final play of the first half.
But the Hawks were back in business after Holy Cross lost a fumble on the third play of the third quarter.
Hudson Catholic drove to the 2 behind senior running back Jason Hendricks, who finished with 170 yards on 36 carries.
"He's a slippery back," Fant said of Hendricks, who has scholarship offers from Pittsburgh and Temple, according to Hawks coach Bob Stern.
On three plays from inside the 3, Hendricks could not reach the end zone. The final play was a fourth and goal from the 1-foot line, but Holy Cross' interior line of Howley, Dwayne Glass and Brandon Peart formed a wall, and Fant, Wojcheichowski and Phillips were among the gang tacklers who stormed into the backfield to dump Hendricks.
"We stopped them physically, and we stopped them emotionally," Fant said. "That changed the momentum for us."
Phillips, a first-year punter who booted a 54-yarder in the first half, unleashed a 56-yarder early in the fourth quarter.
"Unbelievable," Holy Cross coach Tim McAneney said of Phillips' punting.
The Lancers managed just 112 total yards and five first downs as they battled the elements and Hudson Catholic's sturdy defense.
But Phillips made the one big play Holy Cross needed on the possession after his 56-yard punt. It was the Lancers' only completion of the game; they attempted just two passes.
"He's an athlete, and he makes plays," McAneney said. "People joke that all we do is run, but we can mix in a pass now and then."
Still dripping from a cascade of water and ice, courtesy of his celebrating players, McAneney was especially happy for his senior class. In four years, those athletes played in a program with three head coaches, as well as noteworthy changes in coordinators and philosophies.
"We had so much talent last year," said McAneney, who was the Lancers' defensive coordinator in 2007 before taking over for Charlie Pirrello before this season. "These kids were kind of like the little brothers of that team. But they wanted to show they could win their way."
Hudson Catholic 0 0 0 0 - 0
Holy Cross 0 0 0 7 - 7
Holy: Phillips 39 pass from Stein (Schulze kick)