Senior defensive lineman Ryan Bryce said St. Joseph's Prep did not make any major adjustments at halftime when the Hawks were tied with La Salle in a defensive tussle.
"We thought we were playing pretty well," the 6-foot-4, 285-pounder said. "We just needed to stick with our game plan and execute a little better."
Bryce and company continued their solid play after the break, quarterback Marquez McCray shined in clutch moments, and St. Joe's Prep captured the Catholic League Class 6A title with a 17-3 triumph in the bitter cold Friday night at Northeast.
In successfully defending their crown, the Hawks limited the Explorers to 84 yards rushing on 28 attempts and 64 passing.
McCray had 15 carries for 84 yards. The second-year starter connected on 10 of 21 passes for 76 yards.
St. Joe's Prep (10-0) advanced to next Saturday's District 12 Class 6A final at 6 p.m. back at Northeast. Gabe Infante's squad will take on the winner of Saturday evening's Public League final between Central (3-7) and Northeast (6-2).
Kolbe Burrell broke a 3-3 deadlock with a 2-yard touchdown dart up the middle with 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the third quarter. The series was highlighted by McCray's 15-yard toss to James Cherry and Marques Mason's 11-yard burst around left end.
McCray produced an insurance tally with his 1-yard sneak at the start of the fourth stanza. It was preceded by the 6-2, 220-pounder's 12-yard scramble to the La Salle 26-yard line and his 20-yard pass to Cherry.
"He's great at sensing pressure, escaping it, and running for first downs," Bryce, an Army recruit and first-team all-Catholic Red Division selection, said of McCray.
The Hawks, who posted their 23d consecutive victory, rushed 42 times for 169 yards. Mason carried 16 times for 70 yards.
The charge up front was led by center Anthony Cerrutti, guards Matt McGeary and Casey Stephenson, and tackles Nick DiPrinzio and R.J. McKee.
Defensively, linebackers Phil O'Connor (two sacks) and Bradley Cobaugh and end Rayshad Wallace (eight solo stops) combined to make 28 tackles.
La Salle QB Isaiah Jones, filling in for injured starter Danny Solecki, carried 21 times for 66 yards and converted 9 of 21 throws.
In last year's District 12 Class 6A final, St. Joe's Prep rolled to a 44-6 victory over Northeast. The Hawks went on to win their third state championship in four seasons.
La Salle 0 3 0 0-3
St. Joseph's Prep 0 3 7 7-17
LS: FG Danny Karrash 37
SJP: FG Anthony Tigano 30
SJP: Kolbe Burrell 2 run (Tigano kick)