St. Joseph wins seventh consecutive state title
On one end of the field, a team leader was being hoisted into an ambulance. On the other end, the St. Joseph football team was trying to rally, fighting to overcome adversity.
On one end of the field, a team leader was being hoisted into an ambulance.
On the other end, the St. Joseph football team was trying to rally, fighting to overcome adversity.
It was a metaphor for the Wildcats' 2015 season. Injury and uneven play could have derailed one of South Jersey's most consistent programs, but the players didn't let it happen.
"We had to step up," said senior quarterback Salaam Horne.
On the first play after star senior lineman Derek Lomax was carted off the field with a leg injury, Horne scrambled 15 yards for the game's first score, giving St. Joseph (10-2) a lead it never lost in a 19-6 win over Hudson Catholic (10-2) in the Non-Public Group 2 championship game Sunday at Rowan University.
The win was St. Joseph's seventh consecutive state title. It marked the end of an era for the Wildcats - with Horne and his twin brother, A'Laam, one of the most dynamic combinations the program has ever seen, playing their final game.
"Most people don't get to win one state championship. We won four. It's a great feeling," A'Laam Horne said. "We're leaving a legacy behind - that's what it's all about."
As they have been for four seasons, the Horne twins were stars on both sides of the ball Sunday.
A'Laam Horne, a running back and cornerback, finished with 16 carries for 121 yards and a touchdown. He also intercepted a pass and returned a fumble 53 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Both twins were playing with surgically repaired knees, which hampered them all season. Wildcats coach Paul Sacco said Salaam Horne's injury was particularly bad entering Sunday, but he still managed 36 yards on five carries, including a gutsy run on the team's first touchdown with six minutes left in the first quarter.
"They're two phenomenal kids, on and off the field, they work hard," Sacco said of the twins. "It's sad that they had to be saddled with injuries - we didn't even know if Salaam was going to play today. But we hung in there.
"We were scrambling, but these kids at St. Joe, they find ways to win games."
Like the season itself, Sunday saw a few glaring mishaps by St. Joe. The team turned the ball over three times and had a punt blocked.
After A'Laam Horne's fumble recovery touchdown, Hudson Catholic returned the kickoff 90 yards for a score. It also recovered the ensuing onside kick.
But the Wildcats fought through it, consistently making plays on defense - including two interceptions by sophomore Matt Tucker - preventing the Hawks from mounting a comeback.
After Lomax's injury, "we said we had to do this for Derek," Salaam Horne said. "He's our brother. We had to go out there and get the win."
St. Joseph 6 0 6 7 - 19
Hudson Catholic 0 0 0 6 - 6
SJ: Salaam Horne 15 run (kick failed)
SJ: A'Laam Horne 22 run (run failed)
SJ: A'Laam Horne 53 with fumble recovery (Eric Graziano kick)
HC: Tyheem Burno 90 kickoff return (kick failed)