Caseys top DePaul, 13-8, to win state football championship

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Red Bank Catholic High School football coach Mike Lange celebrates with his players after winning the NJSIAA Non-Public, Group B championship with a 13-8 victory over DePaul on Nov. 26 at MetLife Stadium.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Red Bank Catholic High School quarterback Alex Brown drops back and throws a 33-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Najih Rahman during the NJSIAA Non-Public, Group B championship game on Nov. 26 at MetLife Stadium. Brown had two touchdowns to help Red Bank Catholic defeat DePaul 13-8. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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The Red Bank Catholic High School football team celebrates winning the NJSIAA Non-Public, Group B championship with a 13-8 victory over DePaul on Nov. 26 at MetLife Stadium.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Red Bank Catholic High School running back Sabino Portella runs off tackle for a first down during the NJSIAA Non-Public, Group B championship game on Nov. 26 at MetLife Stadium. Red Bank Catholic defeated DePaul 13-8 to win its third state championship since 2014. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Red Bank Catholic High School wide receiver Najih Rahman breaks a tackle and runs into the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown during the NJSIAA Non-Public, Group B championship game on Nov. 26 at MetLife Stadium. Red Bank Catholic won 13-8. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Red Bank Catholic High School football coach Mike Lange celebrates with his players after winning the NJSIAA Non-Public, Group B championship with a 13-8 victory over DePaul on Nov. 26 at MetLife Stadium.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Red Bank Catholic High School quarterback Alex Brown drops back and throws a 33-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Najih Rahman during the NJSIAA Non-Public, Group B championship game on Nov. 26 at MetLife Stadium. Brown had two touchdowns to help Red Bank Catholic defeat DePaul 13-8. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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The Red Bank Catholic High School football team celebrates winning the NJSIAA Non-Public, Group B championship with a 13-8 victory over DePaul on Nov. 26 at MetLife Stadium.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Red Bank Catholic High School running back Sabino Portella runs off tackle for a first down during the NJSIAA Non-Public, Group B championship game on Nov. 26 at MetLife Stadium. Red Bank Catholic defeated DePaul 13-8 to win its third state championship since 2014. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Red Bank Catholic High School wide receiver Najih Rahman breaks a tackle and runs into the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown during the NJSIAA Non-Public, Group B championship game on Nov. 26 at MetLife Stadium. Red Bank Catholic won 13-8. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

Red Bank Catholic High School senior quarterback Alex Brown and all of his teammates knew they had a guardian angel watching over them when they took the field on Nov. 26 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford to face DePaul Catholic High School of Wayne in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group B state championship football game.

The guardian angel was Brown’s mother, Michelle, who passed away earlier in November after a long battle with breast cancer.

Brown said he was talking to his mother when the DePaul offense prepared for a final pass to the end zone from the RBC 30 with :07 to play and the Caseys clinging to a 13-8 lead.

“I said, ‘Mom, please get this win for us,’ ” he said.

Brown’s prayers were answered when Patrick Grusser’s pass to the end zone fell incomplete as time expired. The Caseys (11-1) ran onto the field to celebrate the program’s third state championship since 2014.

“This is for our program. This is for our kids,” RBC coach Mike Lange said. “I am honored to be the coach here. This was a great program win.”

It was a postseason to remember for Brown, who starred on the big stage in honor of his mom. The Caseys’ quarterback tallied 12 touchdowns in three playoff games.

“I felt her throughout the playoffs,” Brown said of his mom. “I just want to thank her and all the fans. She helped us get this championship.”

On the Caseys’ first drive of the championship game, Brown hit junior wide receiver Najih Rahman with a 33-yard touchdown pass. The extra point gave RBC a 7-0 lead.

Later in the first quarter, RBC surrendered a safety on a blocked punt as DePaul pulled to within 7-2.

Early in the third quarter, DePaul took an 8-7 lead on Tyler Brown’s 11-yard touchdown run.

On their first drive of the third quarter, the Caseys used a fake punt to maintain possession of the ball. Sabino Portella hit Joe Diorio with a 12-yard pass on fourth and three as RBC moved to its own 48.

“It was a big momentum swing,” Lange said of the fake punt. “I was nervous to punt to them. We just rolled with it and it worked out.”

Following the fourth down conversion, Brown drove the Caseys downfield and finished a 14-play drive with a two-yard touchdown run to give RBC a 13-8 lead with 2:11 to play in the third quarter.

Brown tallied 105 total yards of offense in the contest. For his senior campaign, Brown finished with 32 total touchdowns and passed for more than 1,700 yards.

It was the “craziest journey” he has ever been on, Brown said of the 2021 season.

There were a lot of twists and turns, but with the strength of his mom and the support of his teammates, Brown was able to make the journey one to remember by winning a state championship.

“I can’t describe this moment, but I am enjoying every second of it,” Brown said. “I’m so proud of my guys. I’m so proud of my defense. I’m so proud of my coaches and the fans. I love everyone.”

The RBC defense made two key defensive stands in the fourth quarter. The Spartans were stopped twice on downs, including with 5:24 to play.

“We came out on defense and executed and did a great job,” senior Alex Bauman said. “I am just so excited for me and my brothers. We did this together. Winning a state championship is the greatest feeling in the world.”

DePaul had a final chance to win the game when the Spartans took possession on their own 26 with 2:13 to play. The offense reached the RBC 39 with 1:29 to play, but at that point the Caseys were able to slow down the Spartans.

On fourth and 11 at the 30 with :07 to play, a final pass failed to find its target and the Caseys secured the program’s 10th overall state championship.

“The RBC defense is a staple of the Shore Conference,” Lange said. “You saw kids make play after play. It’s a team effort and that’s what it took.”

RBC sophomore linebacker Davin Brewton led the way in the championship game with 18 tackles. The defense allowed fewer than 12 points per game in 2021.