Nothing was going to slow down senior running back Malik Ingram from helping the Mater Dei Prep football team advance to the semifinals of the NJSIAA Non-Public, Group 3 playoffs.
Ingram rushed for 302 yards and amassed a game-high four rushing touchdowns to power third-seeded Mater Dei to a 49-14 victory over sixth-seeded Pope John XXIII of Sparta on Nov. 16 at Monsignor Robert T. Bulman Stadium in Middletown.
“This is my last high school season, so I want to go out with a bang,” Ingram said. “You only get one high school career and you want to make the best of it. My offensive line did a wonderful job blocking and opening up holes for me.”
Next up for Ingram and his mates will be rival Red Bank Catholic High School.
The Seraphs will play second-seeded Red Bank Catholic in the playoff semifinals on Nov. 22 at Count Basie Park in Red Bank. Mater Dei will seek revenge for last year’s loss to Red Bank Catholic in the Non-Public, Group 3 state final.
Mater Dei feels confident going into its showdown with RBC.
“This win (against Pope John) is a big confidence booster for us,” Ingram said. “We’re going to be ready to play come Friday night.”
On Nov. 16, Ingram got Mater Dei an early lead on the team’s first possession, capping the Seraphs’ 55-yard scoring drive with his first touchdown of the game from one-yard out.
After Pope John tied the contest with a 75-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Peter Delaportas to Jarelle Robinson, Ingram answered right back on the next possession for Mater Dei.
Rumbling through the Pope John defense and up the sideline, the senior notched his second touchdown of the day with a 61-yard score to put the Seraphs up 14-7 going into the second quarter.
Mater Dei extended its lead to 21-7 midway through the second quarter. Quarterback Alex Brown hit Clarence Lewis on a well designed wide receiver screen, and the senior did the rest, zooming all the way to the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown.
It’s the third touchdown reception of the season for Lewis. The senior also had two interceptions on defense to help the Seraphs advance to the semifinals.
“We’ve ran that screen play a lot this year and knew we had to score one on it,” Lewis said. “We practiced it a lot and were able to find the end zone.”
Once again seeing the Lions answer to cut into the Mater Dei lead, Ingram struck with another powerful answer for the Seraphs.
Taking the inside handoff, Ingram stormed up the middle and broke free from the pack for his third touchdown of the half from 28 yards out to give Mater Dei a 28-14 lead with 3:26 left in the first half.
Ingram capped off his brilliant day on the opening drive of the second half to extend the Mater Dei lead to 35-14.
The senior accounted for 79 yards of Mater Dei’s 10-play 80-yard touchdown drive, ending it with a four-yard score to give him four touchdowns on the day.
“I didn’t even know that was the plan to give me the ball the whole drive,” Ingram said. “You can’t back down. I just sucked it up, went out there and led the team to a touchdown.”
Ingram now has 18 rushing touchdowns and 20 total scores on the season. It was the second time in his career that Ingram rushed for over 300 yards in a game.
Mater Dei scored touchdowns on each of its next two possessions to go a perfect three-for-three in the third quarter.
Isaiah Noguera made a perfect pitch on the read option to Kyree Drake, who burst up the sideline for a 82-yard touchdown to put Mater Dei up 42-14.
Noguera punched in the final Mater Dei score of the contest, faking the jet sweep handoff and rushing up the middle for a nine-yard touchdown to give the Seraphs their second game with over 45 points this season.
Mater Dei improved to 7-3 on the season.
Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports