West Deptford's Jason Collier used his size to go up and catch a momentum-shifting touchdown as time expired in the first half on Saturday.
That score broke a tie game, and the Eagles were able to hold off Paulsboro for a 35-26 victory in the final South Jersey regular-season game of the year.
Saturday's game was unique in the fact that both teams will play in sectional title games next weekend. West Deptford (10-1) will play Haddonfield in the South Jersey Group 2 championship game next Sunday at Rowan University at 11 a.m. The Paulsboro Red Raiders (9-2) will take on Penns Grove in the South Jersey Group 1 title game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Rowan.
"Not a lot of teams get to play a team like that right before the state championship game," said West Deptford quarterback Peter Orio. "I think that really prepares us for next week."
Despite the short week, both teams played most of their starters. Orio threw a pair of touchdown passes and ran for a key score late in the fourth quarter. Paulsboro quarterback Colin McCarthy threw three touchdown passes.
Paulsboro's Dehron Holloway returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but a holding penalty negated the score. The Red Raiders went on to turn the ball over twice in the first quarter, which led to a pair of West Deptford touchdowns. But McCarthy bounced back in the second quarter by throwing two touchdown passes to make it a 14-14 game.
"We had a couple turnovers that always hurt you," said Paulsboro coach Glenn Howard. "We made some mistakes that normally we don't make and try to stay away from. It was just too much for us to overcome."
Paulsboro left Orio and the Eagles just enough time to score to regain the lead as time expired in the first half. With the clock showing three seconds, Orio lofted a 24-yard pass into the end zone. The 6-foot-7, 280-pound Collier came down with the football to give the Eagles a 21-14 lead and shift the momentum back in West Deptford's favor.
"It was pretty big," Collier said of the importance of the play. "With it being [that far out] I wasn't expecting the ball right away. But Pete read them right, and I just came down with it."
The Eagles created some distance late in the third quarter when they scored off Paulsboro's third turnover of the game. McCarthy fumbled, and Orio recovered at the 19-yard line of the Red Raiders. After converting a fourth-and-inches, Darren McKeown caught a touchdown pass to make it 28-14.
Holloway made things interesting when he scored his second touchdown of the day on a short run with 10 minutes to play. But the Eagles responded with a time-consuming drive that Orio capped with a 20-yard touchdown run.
The Red Raiders made one last push when Santino Morina scored off a tipped pass with 2 minutes, 54 seconds to go. But Paulsboro did not see the ball again as West Deptford ran out the clock.
The Eagles have won seven of the last eight in the series, including a 55-27 victory last year on their way to a 12-0 season.
West Deptford 14 7 7 7 — 35
Paulsboro 0 14 0 12 — 26
WD: Tyshawn Booman 8 run (Mike Bilodeau kick)
WD: TJ Hoyt 2 run (Mike Bilodeau kick)
P: Jacob Perez-Eli 28 pass from Colin McCarthy (Ricky Wolf kick)
P: Dehron Holloway 9 pass from McCarthy (Ricky Wolf kick)
WD: Jason Collier 24 pass from Peter Orio (Mike Bilodeau kick)
WD: Darren McKeown 5 pass from Orio (Mike Bilodeau kick)
P: Holloway 1 run (kick failed)
WD: Orio 20 run (Mike Bilodeau kick)