St. Joseph's Prep suffered a scare when star running back D'Andre Swift went down with an ankle injury in the early part of the Hawks' 43-24 win over Archbishop Wood on Sept. 16.

The 5-foot-9, 215-pound senior sat out the next game and played sparingly, with no carries, in the next two contests.

When he returned against bitter rival La Salle, Swift put on quite the show. He carried 19 times for 275 yards and scored seven touchdowns in a 63-35 rout of the Explorers.

"I did a lot of rehab and physical therapy to get where I'm at," he said afterward. "I don't think I'm 100 percent yet, but I'm getting there."

With fresh legs down the stretch, Swift, ranked the fourth-best running back in the country by Scout.com, ignited the Hawks to their third PIAA state championship in four seasons.

In his final three high school games, Swift rushed 76 times for 767 yards (an average of 10.1 yards per carry) and nine scores. "He did some freakin' scary stuff out there," Prep coach Gabe Infante said.

For his dazzling efforts, Swift is the Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania player of the year.

The incredible stretch run started in the state quarterfinals against District 11's Parkland. Swift carried 18 times for a career-high 318 yards and a pair of scores as the Hawks cruised past the Trojans, 38-17.

The following week against District 1 champ North Penn, the Georgia recruit carried 31 times for 268 yards and four TDs. He sealed a 35-25 victory by scoring from the 27-, 12-, and 1-yard lines in the fourth quarter.

Swift's tear continued in the Class 6A final vs. District 7's Pittsburgh Central Catholic. He had 26 carries for 161 yards and three TDs in a 42-7 whipping of the Vikings.

For the season, Swift rushed 149 times for 1,564 yards and 25 scores. He also made 21 catches for 405 yards and nine TDs.

Also noticeable this season, Infante said, was Swift's willingness to be a leader.

"He took ownership of the team," the coach said. "That was impressive to watch. He would confidently speak up on the field and in the locker room."

Swift's father, Darren (photo left, with D'Andre), who was a star running back on Frankford's 1987 Public League championship team, was the Prep's strength and conditioning coach.

"My dad was real good in football, so I try to soak in as much as I can from him," said Swift, who finished with 4,112 career rushing yards.

Swift was selected this week to play for the U.S. under-19 national team that will compete against Canada in the first North American Championship at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., on Jan. 28.

@ozoneinq