Halfway through his senior season, Chris Carey realized something: He was halfway through his senior season.
"I finally realized, 'My St. Joe's moments are coming to an end,' " said Carey, a tight end and defensive end for the Wildcats football team.
Carey's improved play has been one key to the Wildcats' resurgence in the last two months, according to coach Paul Sacco.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Carey has been a force on offense and defense as St. Joseph (9-2) has won six games in a row entering the Non-Public 2 state championship game against Hudson Catholic (10-1) Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Rowan University.
"We lost that game in Maryland," Sacco said, referring to a 29-0 setback to Baltimore power Mount St. Joseph on Oct. 10. "We came back and said, 'We have to put Chris at tight end.'
"Since he's been in there, our offense has just taken off. And he's been doing great on defense, too."
Carey believes he's made a bigger impact on defense. Although he started his senior year at linebacker, he moved back to defensive end midway through the season to improve the Wildcats' pass rush.
Carey has made 58 tackles, including 16 tackles for loss. He leads the team with 91/2 sacks.
"I love playing defensive end," Carey said. "I love sacking the quarterback."
Carey has mostly been a blocker as a tight end, helping the Wildcats' running game regain some of its potency after a slow start related to nagging injuries to senior twins, A'Laam and Salaam Horne.
In St. Joseph's limited passing game, Carey has made seven catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.
"This season has been tough," said Carey, who lives in Washington Township. "We're not used to losing two games."
Carey and the other St. Joseph seniors have been part of a program that has won a state title in each of their first three seasons. The Wildcats have won six in a row.
"We don't want to be the class that doesn't win a state title," Carey said. "That's pushing us."
Carey said he also is getting a boost from the realization that his career is nearing an end. As have most St. Joseph players, Carey has made a complete commitment to the program, spending countless hours in the weight room and on the practice field, both in-season and out.
"I remember thinking it was almost over and I was was like, 'Wow,' " Carey said. "I knew I had to do everything I can to finish this the way I want to finish this.' "