MIDDLETOWN, N.J. - Mike Mascioli knows he is lucky.

He knows he is one of a select group of high school football players who have been part of a program that won three state titles in his career.

"I know a lot of people don't get to experience one," Mascioli said.

But the two-way lineman was fighting back tears late Saturday afternoon because of what he didn't accomplish in his final season for the St. Joseph football team.

St. Joseph's streak of state titles ended at seven when Mater Dei scored a 26-0 victory over the Wildcats in the Non-Public 2 state semifinals on a warm, sunny afternoon on the Seraphs' little field off Exit 117 of the Garden State Parkway in Monmouth County.

"I'm disappointed because I feel like I let everyone down," Mascioli said. "I led the team and all season the alumni were talking to me, telling me, 'Keep the tradition alive.' "

Mater Dei (11-0), which has rapidly developed into a small-school, non-public power under former Brooklyn Poly Prep coach Dino Mangiero, advanced to face Holy Spirit in the Non-Public 2 state title game Dec. 3 at Kean University.

"That's a good team," St. Joseph coach Paul Sacco said. "They are a lot better defensively than people give them credit for."

The loss ended a strange season for St. Joseph (7-4), the No. 16 team in the Inquirer Top 25.

The Wildcats never played better than they did in a 37-19 victory over Central Jersey Group 4 finalist Allentown in the Sept. 3 season opener, according to Sacco.

The season included a 42-0 loss to rival St. Augustine Prep and a pair of home, 17-14 overtime losses to Holy Spirit and Cedar Creek.

"It seemed like our offense couldn't get going all season," Mascioli said.

That pattern continued Saturday.

St. Joseph struggled to move the ball against Mater Dei's fast and physical defense.

"We were outmanned at the wingback position," Sacco said. "We've got a freshman and sophomore there, and we couldn't block them."

Mater Dei didn't sustain many drives, but the Seraphs made enough big plays to control the game.

Quarterback George Pearson fired a 49-yard pass to Marvin Pierre for the first touchdown late in the first quarter, then hit Kyle Devaney for a 34-yard gain on the next possession to set up Pierre's 4-yard run for another score.

Mater Dei's other two touchdowns were products of special teams, as Eddie Thomas returned a punt for a score and the other came on a 5-yard drive when St. Joseph botched a punt.

"Defensively, I thought the kids did a nice job," Sacco said.

The loss marked the first time since 2008 that St. Joseph failed to capture a state title. Sacco believes the Wildcats, who played a handful of seniors in key roles, will bounce back in 2017.

"Streaks are made to be broken," Sacco said. "Hopefully, we can start another one. Next year, we'll be a year older and wiser."

With a nasty cut on the bridge of his nose and eye-black smeared on his face, Mascioli conceded that he "had a great career," but he struggled to find much comfort in that after the final game.

"It just would have been so great to win it again my senior year," Mascioli said.

St. Joseph 0 0 0 0 - 0

Mater Dei 7 6 6 7 - 26

M: Marvin Pierre 49 pass from George Pearson (Roan Maxwell kick)

M: Pierre 4 run (kick fail)

M: Eddie Thomas 94 punt return (kick fail)

M: Justin McCrae 5 run (Maxwell kick)

@PhilAnastasia

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