Before the game, Lenape coach Tim McAneney told his players: "Give us 48 minutes and you'll remember this for 48 years."
He was being conservative.
After the Indians captured the first sectional title in program history with a dramatic 10-7 victory over Rancocas Valley in Saturday night's South Jersey Group 5 final at Rowan University, quarterback Matt LaJoie updated the timeline.
"We'll remember this for the rest of our lives," Lajoie said during an emotional celebration on the field at Richard Wackar
Lenape junior Steve Mulville, a converted offensive lineman in his first season as a varsity kicker, made a 33-yard field
goal with 0:05 on the clock to lift Lenape (11-1), the No. 1 seed.
LaJoie completed a 19-yard pass to junior Brandon Marshall to set up the go-ahead kick.
"It's euphoria," Lajoie said. "I can't even describe how good this feels."
Said Marshall: "There are no words."
Mulville's kick split the college uprights — which are five feet tighter than those in high school — and came after
Rancocas Valley called a timeout with 0:07 on the clock.
"I was nervous," Mulville said. "But, as a kicker, you have to try to stay calm."
Lajoie advised his teammates to leave Mulville to his own thoughts.
"I knew he would get focused," said Lajoie, the holder. "He gets locked in."
The snap from senior Mike Meagher was clean, and so was Lajoie's hold.
Mulville's kick set off a wild celebration from the Lenape side of the huge crowd.
"It's a kicker's dream, to make the game-winning field goal to win a state championship," Mulville said. "It's the best
feeling of my life."
The victory capped a remarkable run for Lenape's seniors, who won 39 games in their four seasons and transformed the
Indians into one of South Jersey's top programs.
"I can't say enough about these kids," McAneney said. "They love to play, they love to play for each other. They weren't
leaving this field without a state championship."
Lenape's defense was dominant although Rancocas Valley (10-2) was able to make a few big plays. Junior quarterback Bryce
Mangene, senior wide out Ethan Jackson and senior running back Iverson Clement led the way for the Red Devils.
Rancocas Valley's defense was strong as well, with linebacker Kyle Sapp and linemen Jesse Eadric and Daequan Jackson-Swoope making play after play.
"The way we lost is OK," Jackson-Swoope said. "Because, at the end of the day, we balled out."
Mangene escaped pressure and fired a 34-yard touchdown pass to Clement, who made a leaping catch in the end zone, to tie
the game at 7-7 in the third quarter.
"I told our kids it was going to be a fist fight," McAneney said. "And for 15 rounds. Not 12. It was old school, Ali-Frazier stuff."
Lenape had taken a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on Lajoie's one-yard touchdown run.
Both defenses controlled play for long stretches of the hard-hitting game.
"This is what you play for," Rancocas Valley coach Dan Haussman said. "I'm extremely proud of the way we fought."
Lenape took possession at the 49 after a 12-yard punt return by JoJo Kellum with 1:04 left.
Lajoie drove the team into field-goal range, hitting Marshall with the key pass on a 3rd-and-20 from the 35.
"It was like backyard football," Lajoie said of the improvised play.
Marshall broke off his pattern, worked to the sideline and somehow managed to keep a foot inbounds as he made the catch.
"Unbelievable catch," McAneney said. "Just unbelievable."
That set the stage for Mulville, who delivered the biggest kick for the biggest victory in Lenape history.
After the game, there was magic in cold and clear December air for the Indians, as a huge moon shone over the college campus and players and coached posed for pictures, embraced and savored a victory that had been years in the making.
For Lenape, there was joy in Mulville.
"These seniors, they deserve it," Mulville said. "They've done so much for this program."
Rancocas Valley 0 0 7 0 — 7
Lenape 7 0 0 3 — 10
L: Matt Lajoie 1 run (Steve Mulville kick)
RV: Iverson Clement 34 pass from Byrce Mangene (Kyle Prescavage kick)