Seraphs vie for program’s first state football championship


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By Matthew Rocco

Mater Dei Prep is on the cusp of winning its first state football championship. The only thing standing in its way is Holy Spirit High School.

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The Seraphs will take their perfect record of 11-0 into the NJSIAA Non-Public, Group II final Dec. 3, and the key to walking away with the trophy may be their junior quarterback.

George Pearson has already played under the bright lights of a state championship game. As a 14-year-old freshman, Pearson led Matawan Regional High School to the Central Jersey, Group III title in 2014. That’s the kind of experience that could prove to be a difference-maker at Kean University.

In his 2014 sectional final with the Huskies, Pearson was cool under pressure. He threw four touchdown passes and recorded 198 yards in the air to carry Matawan to a 27-7 rout over Carteret High School.

Pearson, who transferred before the season to Mater Dei from Saint Joseph Regional High School of Montvale, completed eight of his 13 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown in Mater Dei’s semifinal win against Saint Joseph High School of Hammonton.

The Seraphs also got two touchdowns from Marvin Pierre, including a 48-yard dash to the end zone, in a 26-0 shutout that propelled the team into championship weekend.

Mater Dei’s defense rose to the occasion, forcing punts on nine of 11 possessions and holding St. Joseph to negative yardage on the ground.

The Seraphs, who will appear in just their second sectional final in school history, dominated the competition this season. Mater Dei won all 11 games it has played by at least 22 points, which was the margin of a 37-15 victory against Highland Park High School in September. In the state tournament, Mater Dei kicked off its run to the finals by demolishing Saint Anthony High School, 51-8. In perhaps their biggest test of 2016, the Seraphs easily toppled St. Joseph to reach the finals.

Players up and down the roster have fueled the Seraphs’ playoff run. Sophomore running back Sincere Saunders rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns on six carries in the quarterfinals. Pierre contributed 46 yards to a ground game that tallied 198 yards overall against St. Anthony’s defense.

Junior Kyle Devaney and senior Eddie Lewis, who generated interest from a dozen college football programs, are two of Pearson’s primary targets. Lewis also took a punt return 94 yards for a touchdown against St. Joseph.

On defense, Mater Dei has been rock solid. After defeating Highland Park Sept. 30, the Seraphs allowed a mere 21 points combined in their last seven games before the state championship. The Seraphs completed four shutouts during the same period, including three 41-0 blowouts to close the regular season.

Mater Dei, the second seed in Non-Public, Group II bracket, will face No. 4-seed Holy Spirit at 1 p.m.

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