ST. JOSEPH'S PREP senior Vince Moffett had a choice. After earning first-team All-Catholic League reviews as a junior, the 5-10, 180-pound running back could have pouted when his carries and yardage plunged precipitously this season.

The emergence of junior Olamide Zaccheaus and freshman De'Andre Swift in the backfield saw Moffett's production go from 116 carries, 684 yards and nine total TDs last season to only 65 totes for 249 and three offensive scores this season.

Oh, woe is me? Not exactly.

"I knew I would still be getting playing time," the 18-year-old said. "I'm just a team player. I didn't really care about my personal stats as long as I was getting time and was contributing to the team."

Now that the Hawks are in the PIAA football playoffs, Moffett's donation to the team is best felt on the defensive side - and it all started as a joke.

"Our safety got hurt, and I just said to our coach, pretty much just joking around, 'I could take a few snaps on defense,' " Moffett said. "And I've played defense ever since."

In a 21-10 quarterfinal victory against Parkland last week, Moffett made two key defensive plays. On one, with Parkland driving late in the second quarter, Moffett - the last line of defense - made a tackle at the 15 that thwarted a would-be 41-yard TD run. Prep eventually held the Trojans to a field goal.

"We talked all week about holding teams to field goals," Moffett said. "A big defensive stop when they're in the red zone can definitely pump up the offense to let them know the defense is working hard."

In truth, the offense, led by senior quarterback Chris Martin, who returned after missing two games with a left-knee injury, didn't need much help. Martin was a little rusty practice on his first few plays, but a left-corner, back-shoulder fade to Justin Montague for a score was the perfect WD-40.

"I was like, 'OK, Chris is back,' " Moffett said of the throw.

Martin finished 12-for-22 for 235 yards (a career high), two touchdowns and a game ball.

"We couldn't do it without our field general," coach Gabe Infante said to his squad as he tossed the rock to Martin postgame.

A Moffett interception on fourth-and-4 in the final frame sealed the deal with less than 3 minutes remaining. The pick came courtesy of instincts left over from his time in the backfield.

"I can see plays forming," Moffett said of his work in the secondary. "I know where the running back wants to cut and where receivers want to go."

After high school, the Rhawnhurst native isn't quite sure where he's headed, but with a 3.3 GPA, he's thinking engineering or business.

He got his start playing for the Rhawnhurst Raiders alongside Archbishop Ryan star rusher Samir Bullock and Father Judge's Marquis Seamon.

However, the end of Moffett's football story has yet to be written. The Hawks face Neshaminy in the PIAA semifinals on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Charles Martin Memorial Stadium in the Northeast.

Because of his aptitude for math and science, Moffett describes himself as a "problem solver."

Apropos, because when there weren't enough carries in the backfield, he reinvented himself into a capable defensive back.

"It's satisfying to help my team where they need me, either on offense or defense," Moffett said. "Being able to be a part of this team in the state playoffs, making this run, it's definitely a great feeling."

Psychic hotline

Need some cash? Have Imhotep head coach Albie Crosby pick some lottery numbers for you. The prescient preparer of young men screamed "Extra point, extra point!" just after senior DB Deandre Scott intercepted a pass on his own 20-yard line on Saturday against Catasauqua. Eighty yards later, Scott had a pick-6 and Denniston "DJ" Moore was kicking the PAT.

Wait, before you start thinking Powerball, Crosby was just playing the percentages. Scott already had a fumble return for a TD in the game, and now he owns 14 return TDs for his career (via interception, fumble, kickoff and punt). Arizona State fans are in for a treat when the Sun Devils' commit steps on campus.

Lights-out action

Fifteen minutes before Prep Charter and Horace Furness High tangled for pre-Thanksgiving football Wednesday night, the lights at the South Philly Supersite went out before the scheduled 6 p.m. kickoff.

Have no fear. With a steady hand, veteran field man Mark McDonnell placed a call to . . . Kentucky!

"To be honest, I don't know what happened," McDonnell, a field attendant since 2001, said of the outage over the phone. "Had me a little nervous, too!"

Musco Lighting, an Iowa-based company, can remotely operate the stadium's lights. McDonnell placed a call to a representative in Kentucky. Within 10 minutes, there was light! Prep Charter proceeded to scorch the artificial turf, 48-0.

The 53-year-old from Port Richmond, who went to North Catholic but said he was too small to make the football team, said he breathed easier knowing the kids would play on time.

"Relief," McDonnell said of his reaction, "but also apprehension about them going off again before the game finished."

Dulcet tones of a Frog

Veteran Daily News statman extraordinaire Mark "Frog" Carfagno was readying his pipes for public-address duties at that same Furness/Prep Charter contest when he learned the young woman slated to sing the national anthem unexpectedly couldn't attend.

Frog, who sings in the Mickey Finn Band and plays in the South Philadelphia String Band, is known to carry tunes, but never attempted "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Mic in hand, he solicited a sing-along, but when patrons pursed their lips, he had to go it solo.

We have it on good authority that Frog was pretty good. However, there's no truth to the rumor he sung the lights out.

Bravo, Frog!

On Twitter: @AceCarterDN