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Wildcats beat Mater Dei to win Non-Public state title

Senior Qwahsin Townsel and sophomore Jada Byers combined for 431 rushing yards as the Wildcats won their 19th state championship.

St. Joseph High’s Qwahsin Townsel, surrounded by his teammates, holds up the championship trophy as the NonPublic Group 2 champs after they beat Mater Dei.
St. Joseph High’s Qwahsin Townsel, surrounded by his teammates, holds up the championship trophy as the NonPublic Group 2 champs after they beat Mater Dei.Read moreCLEM MURRAY

It was the perfect end to a perfect season.

It was Qwahsin Townsel up the middle. It was Jada Byers around end.

It was 15 plays and 87 yards and 7 minutes and 38 seconds of St. Joseph football.

"That drive, that's probably the most impressive thing we've done all year," St. Joseph coach Paul Sacco said Sunday after his team's 30-14 victory over Mater Dei in the Non-Public 2 state championship game  at Rowan University.

St. Joseph completed a season-long redemption tour with an imposing victory over the defending state champion and the team that ended the Wildcats' run of seven straight state titles in last season's semifinals.

St. Joseph won its 19th state title since the creation of the the statewide tournament in 1993 and finished 12-0 for the
first time in program history.

"We did," Townsel said, "everything that we set to do."

Townsel was Mr. Inside. Byers was Mr. Outside.

The senior and the sophomore spent the season generating big yardage and racking up touchdowns, and they finished their
last season together with a 431-yard, four-touchdown flourish.

The 6-foot, 190-pound Townsel made the last game of his career one of his best with 232 yards and two touchdowns on 32
bruising carries against a hard-hitting Mater Dei defense.

The 5-foot-8, 160-pound Byers ran 26 times for 199 yards and two touchdowns, and also made an acrobatic interception.

"I'm not sure we've ever had two guys together like those two," Sacco said after the final game of his 36th season.

Running behind a powerful offensive line of junior center Tucker Monico, junior guards Brad Lomax and Bobby Hyndman, junior tackle Wisdom Quarshie and senior tackle Dashon Birch, Townsel and Byers kept the chains moving as St. Joseph dominated time of possession and kept Mater Dei quarterback George Pearson, a Central Michigan recruit, glued to the sideline.

Townsel set the tone for the game with a 56-yard gain on St. Joseph's first play. That set up Byers to score the game's
first touchdown on a 1-yard run.

"I'm smash and he's the burner," Townsel said of Byers.

Byers said he and Townsel regard themselves as the "best 1-2 punch in South Jersey."

Said Byers: "We went out today to prove it one last time."

As St. Joseph players ran on the field in celebration after the final whistle, Townsel embraced Byers, who was overcome
with emotion.Tears streaming down his face, Byers said he dedicated the game to his grandmother, Gimmie Lee Simmons,  who had died on Friday.

"All I could do was put her in my heart," Byers said. "I know she was looking down on me today. This was for her."

The victory completed a four-game sweep for St. Joseph over teams that beat the Wildcats in 2016, when they finished 7-4,
raising questions about their ability to remain as the gold standard of small-school, non-public football programs in the

In the course of a perfect season, St. Joseph beat Holy Spirit, Cedar Creek, St. Augustine, and Mater Dei.

Those teams beat St. Joseph by a combined total of 74 points in 2016. This season, the Wildcats beat those four teams by a
total of 77 points.

"I guess it was an omen or whatever you call it," Sacco said. "But how perfect was it to finish against that team in the
state final?"

Mater Dei 0 6 0 8 — 14

St. Joseph 14 0 8 8 — 30

SJ: Jada Byers 1 run (Qwahsin Townsel run)

SJ: Townsel 3 run (run fail)

MD: Gunnison Bloodgood 44 pass from George Pearson (run fail)

SJ: Townsel 7 run (Townsel run)

SJ: Byers 7 run (Townsel run)

MD: Kyle Devaney 14 pass from Pearson (Malik Ingram run)