Cut away all the penalties, turnovers, missed opportunities and the generally sloppy plays — both teams offered all of that in abundance.
But brush that aside, and the difference in the game was clear. It could be summed up in one swift, improbable 72-yard burst. The last play of the first half.
"The ball was tipped to me," Dehron Holloway said. "And all I saw was green grass."
The fact that he saw green wasn't the miracle of the play, it's that he had the speed to cover it all — that's what Penns Grove could never overcome.
Holloway's 72-yard pick-six on the final play of the second quarter was just one of his heroic plays in a remarkable performance that helped carry the Paulsboro football team to a 34-24 win over the Red Devils in Saturday's South Jersey Group 1 championship at Rowan University.
"I just came out ready to play tonight, my dad texted me this morning and told me and go out and have a day today — and that's what I did," said Holloway, a senior who generated three touchdowns — one receiving, one rushing and the pick-six (one of his three interceptions) — and racked up 115 rushing yards on 29 carries and two catches for 48 yards. "I knew I had to just let the game come to me and keep on performing."
The win was Paulsboro's third sectional title in three seasons and 19th overall, extending its record of most sectional titles by a public school in South Jersey history.
Holloway "is a big-time player, I've said that all along," said Paulsboro coach Glenn Howard. "I'm very happy for him that he could go out there in his last game as a Raider with a Group 1 championship. I'm really proud for him and I'm really proud for all the players."
Holloway's interception return for a touchdown was his team's second TD in a wild 20-second span to end the first half.
Two plays earlier, Santino Morina caught a 17-yard touchdown pass, a slant over the middle from Colin McCarthy to give his team a 14-0 lead. The play was set up by an interception by freshman Bhayshul Tuten, who returned the ball 35 yards to the 17-yard line. It made up for the Red Raiders' previous two drives, each of which ended with a turnover in the red zone.
It also gave Paulsboro enough cushion to withstand another wave of turnovers and mistakes in the third quarter and a strong effort by Penns Grove to get back in the game.
After a clean first quarter, turnovers were a regular part of the rest of the game.
The Red Raiders recorded five interceptions and a fumble recovery. Conversely, they threw an interception and lost four fumbles and allowed a 53-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to make the score 34-24 with 3:17 left.
After the Red Raiders (10-2) coughed up the opening kickoff of the third quarter, Penns Grove (10-2) scored its first touchdown of the game on a 17-yard touchdown reception by Tyreke Brown from Kavon Lewis.
But Paulsboro answered right back. Holloway gained 40 yards on four straight carries to open the next drive, setting up a 5-yard touchdown run score by Tuten, who also flashed big-play ability in the game, with 76 yards on five carries and an interception.
And that was the theme of the second half, Paulsboro consistently overcoming big mistakes with big plays and Penns Grove unable to get closer than 10 points over the final two quarters.
"Even though we made some uncharacteristic mistakes and did some things that we usually don't do, we did what we had to do to win the game," Howard said. "We just have guys who are dedicated, committed, and they work really hard. …
"There's a fantastic tradition in Paulsboro, and these kids stepped up this year."
Paulsboro 6 16 6 6 — 34
Penns Grove 0 0 12 12 — 24
P: Dehron Holloway 25 pass from Gabe Onorato (kick failed)
P: Santino Morina 17 pass from Colin McCarthy (Bhayshul Tuten pass from McCarthy)
P: Holloway 72 interception (Jamel Miles-Benjamin pass from McCarthy)
PG: Tyreke Brown 17 pass from Kavon Lewis (run failed)
P: Tuten 5 run (run failed)
PG: Samje Moore 27 run (run failed)
PG: Nasir Robinson 22 run (run failed)
P: Holloway 2 run (kick failed)
PG: Robinson 53 punt return (pass failed)