Buoyed by a massive offensive line, Pittsburgh Central Catholic entered the inaugural PIAA Class 6A football final averaging 55.6 points in five playoff games.
But St. Joseph's Prep's defensive front refused to be bullied in the trenches, held the Vikings to a late third-quarter touchdown, and the Hawks claimed their third crown in four years with a 42-7 romp Saturday night at frigid HersheyPark Stadium.
A key to the success in the trenches against District 7's Central Catholic was the fact that the Prep's players regularly battled a similarly strong and formidable offensive line in practices since mid-August. Guards Jackson Evans, at 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, and Carter Lynch (6-6, 310) anchored the group.
"That helped our defensive line feel comfortable with going up against bigger guys," Hawks coach Gabe Infante said.
The Prep (14-0) limited the Vikings (14-2) to 133 yards rushing and 52 passing on 53 plays.
The line was anchored by tackles Ryan Bryce and Jake Ballard and ends Chris Lowndes and Rayshad Wallace. Lowndes and Wallace each posted five tackles.
Strong support came from a linebacking corps made up of James Johnson, Bradley Cobaugh and Phil O'Connor. The Princeton-bound Johnson registered 13 tackles, including a pair of sacks, and Cobaugh was involved in six stops.
Rounding out the defense were cornerbacks Richard Carr and Ricky Goodson, strong safety Dawson DeIuliis and free safety Dejuan Dandridge.
Infante used star running back D'Andre Swift sparingly early on Saturday. "We wanted to give him the ball later on in the game when they were tired," he said.
Swift, with is ticketed for Georgia, carried 26 times for 140 yards and three touchdowns. His final score, a 6-yard run with just less than four minutes remaining, brought on the mercy rule.
"We're smart about not wearing our guys down," Infante said. "We're constantly evaluating the physical condition of our players. We talk about that constantly."
Senior wideout Terrance Greene came up clutch in the squad's drive to state gold. Against Central Catholic, he caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Carr on a third-quarter reverse play and returned a fourth-quarter kickoff 94 yards to make it 35-7.
Outside of quarterback Marquez McCray and wideout Darryle Simmons, who made a second-quarter catch near the sideline and broke a tackle en route to a 35-yard touchdown, the Prep will lose most of its offensive starters to graduation.
"That's the nature of high school football," Infante said. "We have some young, talented kids in the program. Hopefully, they'll understand the level of commitment it takes to be successful."
On a positive note, seven regulars are expected back on defense, including Bryce and Wallace (5 1/2 sacks this season) up front and Cobaugh, who made a team-high 88 tackles, and O'Connor at linebacker.