It was like a boxing match because everybody knew where the next hit was coming from.
Clearview fans could be heard grumbling throughout the game: Well, this one's going to No. 44.
And they were usually right.
There were no tricks. There was rarely a play run outside the tackles by either team.
Both were content to slug it out until one landed a knockout punch.
It came in the second possession of overtime.
Joe Dalsey, with his third consecutive try at a go-ahead field goal, finally put a 27-yarder through the uprights, helping send his Shawnee football team to a 17-14 double overtime win at Clearview Friday night in the South Jersey Group 4 championship.
"Persistence, staying together, love for our brothers. That's what it took to win this game" said a mud-soaked Dalsey after sealing his team's second straight title despite a 5-6 overall record. "We fought throughout this season. Our record didn't show how good we were this year. But this game did."
Dalsey — Shawnee's No. 44 — actually accounted for all 17 of his team's points, including two rushing touchdowns and a field goal.
His smash-mouth style helped Shawnee find its footing after initially looking unprepared for the sheer physicality of Clearview on both sides of the ball.
The Renegades were down, 14-0, before clawing their way back into the game thanks largely to the running of Dalsey and Tom Rebstock — both were helped by an inspired effort by the offensive line — and a solid performance by freshman quarterback and southpaw Matt Welsey.
Shawnee also held Clearview scoreless through the entire second half and two overtimes, marking the second straight game in which the team shined brightest late in the game.
Welsey also improved as the game went on and marched his team 47 yards in the final two minutes of regulation, setting up a 40-yard field goal attempt that Dalsey pushed right.
Both teams played inspired football in overtime, and both missed 32-yard field goal attempts on their first overtime possession. Welsey hit Dom Frigiola on a 10-yard strike to open Shawnee's second possession. Two more runs by Dalsey set up his own winning field goal.
"It's an amazing feeling to make that last one. I'm proud of our defense for stepping up for me, and I'm really proud of our O-line," Dalsey said.
Clearview didn't give up on its final drive. Quarterback Mike Ancona scrambled 11 yards to the Shawnee 14-yard line. But, two plays later, Clearview fumbled the ball away, and John Searcy recovered to end the game.
"I'm incredibly inspired by my team's effort all year round, and I'll never forget their effort in this game" said Clearview coach Steve Scanlon, whose team was playing in just its second sectional football final ever.
Clearview (7-3) held all the momentum early and took a 14-0 lead before Shawnee found its footing. Hunter Lewis raced to the outside for a 30-yard touchdown — one of the longest play of the game — to give Clearview a 7-0 lead with 2 minutes, 18 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Pioneers dominated the line of scrimmage in the first half, an effort led by end Dalton Noakes, who had multiple tackles for a loss. And the team's offense responded in kind, bullying the ball down the field and taking a 14-0 lead on a 7-yard run by Troy Bentancur on the opening drive of the second quarter.
Shawnee didn't appear to wake up in the game until a fourth-and-six on the Clearview 43 when Welsey hit Nate Summerville for a 29-yard reception. The play set up Dalsey's first touchdown, a 9-yard run that made it 14-7 with 2:32 left in the first half.
From there, Shawnee largely controlled the tempo of the game. And Dalsey tied the score with 4:58 left in the third quarter.