Mater Dei looks to make history in state football title game


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By Matthew Rocco

History is within reach for the Mater Dei Prep football team.

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The Seraphs have never won a state championship, but they will get their chance Dec. 3 in the NJSIAA Non-Public, Group II final against Holy Spirit High School.

Mater Dei booked a ticket to the sectional championship game with a dominating performance that knocked out St. Joseph High School of Hammonton, which was seen as the biggest challenge so far to Mater Dei’s unblemished season. The Seraphs had a favorable schedule and went into the state playoffs having played zero games that ended in a margin of victory that was fewer than 20 points.

In fact, the closest regular-season matchup came in September against Highland Park High School in a 22-point win for Mater Dei. The last three games of the season ended in 41-0 blowouts in favor of the Seraphs.

With the victory over third-seeded St. Joseph, No. 2-seed Mater Dei didn’t merely advance to the second sectional final in school history. The team also offered another piece of evidence that it’s the real deal, no matter the competition.

Two touchdowns by Marvin Pierre and another impressive display by the defense contributed to a 26-0 win over powerhouse St. Joseph. The Seraphs didn’t rack up the yardage — recording fewer than 200 yards of total offense. Their success came on big plays.

After a scoreless opening quarter, junior quarterback George Pearson aired one out to Pierre on a deep corner route, and Pierre ran it home for a 48-yard touchdown play.

The Seraphs didn’t wait long to extend their lead. Eddie Lewis returned a Wildcats kick 40 yards to give Mater Dei the ball at St. Joseph’s 45-yard line. Pearson zipped a pass to Kyle Devaney down the middle of the field for a 34-yard catch that put the Seraphs on the 10-yard line. The Seraphs went to the run on third down, and Pierre delivered with a 4-yard run into the end zone that gave Mater Dei a 13-0 advantage.

Lewis took care of business all on his own in the third quarter. Fielding a punt from Mater Dei’s 6-yard line, Lewis raced through the Wildcats’ coverage unit for six points.

The Seraphs struck again on special teams, blocking a punt and setting up the offense a short distance from the goal line. Starting from the 5-yard line, the Seraphs gave the ball to Justin McCrea, who rushed for the final score of the afternoon.

The defense also carried Mater Dei to victory, forcing St. Joseph to punt on nine of 11 possessions. The Wildcats managed only 43 yards in the air, and they couldn’t find any room on the ground. Mater Dei stifled the running game, as the Wildcats finished the game with negative yardage.

Mater Dei and No. 4-seed Holy Spirit will play for the Non-Public, Group II title Dec. 3 at Kean University. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

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