Proudly holding a miniature cardboard cutout of her grandson, Helen Alston made her way from the bleachers to the field to offer congratulations to her favorite St. Joseph's Prep player.
"We got the cutouts on senior night," said Richard Carr, a multipurpose performer for the Hawks. "Ever since then, she brings it to all the games."
Carr deserved the added exposure for his solid play in the Prep's 35-25 triumph over previously undefeated North Penn in a PIAA Class 6A state semifinal Saturday night at Northeast.
The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder returned the opening kickoff 39 yards, made a pair of first-half interceptions, and held his own at cornerback against standout Knights wideout Ricky Johns.
Carr made a first-quarter interception at the Prep 18. With the District 1 champs in the red zone in the second frame, he intercepted a pass in the end zone.
When Carr was matched on the outside against Johns, a 6-4, 190-pounder ticketed for West Virginia, he had to overcome the considerable size difference.
"At the beginning of the second quarter, my coach told me to follow him wherever he lined up," Carr said, referring to Gabe Infante. "He's very talented, but I liked the challenge."
The Hawks (13-0) will try to capture their third state title in four seasons when they take on District 7's Pittsburgh's Central Catholic (14-1) at 8 p.m. next Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium.
D'Andre Swift sparked the Prep's offense by carrying 31 times for 268 yards and four touchdowns. The dynamic halfback and Georgia recruit sealed matters by scoring from the 27, 12, and 1 in the fourth quarter.
"He's an amazing player, a great teammate, and comes up clutch in pressure situations," Hawks senior defensive end Chris Lowndes said.
Swift's 28-yard scoring burst in the first quarter was answered early in the second by Reece Udinski's 14-yard pass to Johns. On the ensuing kickoff, Terrance Greene raced 82 yards to give the Prep a 14-7 halftime advantage.
On Udinski's 30-yard pass to Justis Henley and Kelly Macnamara's 28-yard field goal, North Penn (14-1) took a 17-14 lead late in the third.
It was Owen Verespy's block of Carr's punt attempt that set up Macnamara's go-ahead boot. "I tried to get it off as quickly as I could, but he got to it," Carr said. "I just had to forget about it and keep playing."
After Swift's second and third scores gave the Hawks an 11-point cushion, the Knights cut the gap to 28-25 on Nick Dillon's 37-yard TD catch and Udinski's conversion pass to Johns with 6:27 to go.
Lowndes came up big with 3 minutes remaining. With North Penn on the move at the Prep 39, he stripped Udinski on a 15-yard keeper and safety Dejuan Dandridge made the clinching recovery.
North Penn 0 7 10 8 - 25
St. Joseph's Prep 7 7 0 21 - 35
SJP: D'Andre Swift 28 run (Anthony Tigano kick)
NP: Ricky Johns 14 pass from Reece Udinski (Kelly Macnamara kick)
SJP: Terrance Greene 82 kickoff return (Tigano kick)
NP: Justis Henley 30 pass from Udinski (Macnamara kick)
NP: FG Macnamara 28
SJP: Swift 27 run (Tigano kick)
SJP: Swift 12 run (Tigano kick)
NP: Nick Dillon 37 pass from Udinski (Johns pass from Udinski)