Shortly after his football squad punched a return ticket to Hershey with a surprising blowout of Pennsbury, St. Joseph's Prep coach Gabe Infante lifted senior Dillon DeIuliis off the ground in a celebratory bear hug.
"This is just as special as last year," said DeIuliis, who switched between linebacker and strong safety. "I don't think this could ever get old. It's a new group of guys, and we worked hard for this."
In a PIAA Class AAAA semifinal Saturday, the Hawks scored four times in the first quarter, totaled 352 rushing yards, and forced four fumbles in rolling to a 37-7 victory in a steady rain at Northeast.
The Prep's defense held Pennsbury's vaunted ground-and-pound attack to 116 yards (99 rushing, 17 passing) through three quarters.
"We played with reckless abandon," said DeIuliis, who fell on a fourth-quarter fumble. "Guys were flying around, putting it all on the line for each other."
The Hawks (10-3) will try for their second consecutive crown against District 7's Pine-Richland (15-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium. The Rams advanced with a 28-17 win Saturday over District 3's Wilson.
The Prep sprinted to a 27-0 lead against the Falcons (13-2) on scoring runs by Olamide Zaccheaus, D'Andre Swift, James Bell, and Justin Montague. Swift's 4-yard dash and Bell's 26-yard burst came after takeaways.
"We just wanted to come out and be real physical," said Bell, who carried the ball nine times for 70 yards. "I think we pretty much accomplished that."
The Hawks' imposing offensive line featured center Ed Mooney, guards Shane Davis and Mark Ehrlich, tackles Jon Runyan and Charlie Holsopple, and rotating ends Joe DuMond, Jake Strain, and Billy Boyle.
Midway through the third quarter, Benny Walls bolted 73 yards down the right sideline, with Montague leading the way, to make it 34-0. Nick Bill's 29-yard field goal early in the fourth brought on the mercy rule.
The District 1 champs averted a shutout on Charles Snorweah's 56-yard jaunt. The Rutgers recruit finished with 174 yards on 21 attempts.
Pennsbury 0 0 0 7 - 7
St. Joseph's Prep 27 0 7 3 - 37
SJP: Olamide Zaccheaus 22 run (Nick Bill kick)
SJP: D'Andre Swift 4 run (pass failed)
SJP: James Bell 26 run (pass failed)
SJP: Justin Montague 6 run (Zaccheaus pass from Jack Clements)
SJP: Benny Walls 73 run (Bill kick)
SJP: FG Bill 29
P: Charles Snorweah 56 run (Josh Leon kick)