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FOOTBALL: St. Joseph's Prep Heading to Hershey for State Championship Showdown

By John Knebels (photos by Lou Rabito and Ryan Nix), 12/09/21, 1:00PM EST


Photos/Lou Rabito

By John Knebels

RIDLEY, PA – The naysayers said they had finally met their match. No free chocolate in Hershey this year.

As they have needed to do on only rare occasions, St. Joseph’s Prep ignored the doubt while preparing for Garnet Valley in Saturday night’s PIAA Class 6A state semifinal at Ridley High School. The Hawks had what they collectively rated their best week of practice. They studied film on their District 1 champion opponent with the impressive resume, which included a perfect 14-0 record.

By halftime, the Prep led, 35-7. The Hawks would take their foot off the pedal after the third quarter, because by that time, second and third stringers could put the finishing touches on a thoroughly convincing 49-13 victory that placed the Hawks in the state championship for the eighth time in nine seasons. The Prep will be trying to win its fourth straight crown and seventh in nine seasons.

It was a great team win,” said sophomore running back Kahseim Phillips. “We were dialed in, and we also prepared well. They were a really good team, but I feel that we wanted it more.”

St. Joseph’s Prep vs. Garnet Valley Highlights by Lou Rabito & Jimmy Stinsman

The latter assertion seems impossible to dispute.

Behind a phenomenal performance by sophomore quarterback Samaj Jones, the Prep scored once in the first quarter and four times in the second. They added two more touchdowns in the third to go up by 49-7.

Jones was involved in six of the Prep’s seven scores. He found Phillips for a seven-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter to open the scoring. Touchdown runs of five and four yards tripled the Prep’s lead. After a Garnet Valley touchdown, the Hawks responded 1 minute, 53 seconds later when senior Josh Barlow scored from the five. Exactly three minutes later, Jones connected with sophomore Brandon Rehmann (4 catches for 66 yards, both career highs) for a 30-yard strike.

In the third quarter, the Prep maintained its frenetic pace. Jones scored on a one-yard plunge to make it 42-7, and a 16-yard fling from Jones to sophomore Elijah Jones supplied the quarterback with a career-best third touchdown pass. His three touchdown runs matched his output in the Prep’s 24-21 win over Freedom in the quarterfinals.

St. Joe's sophomore QB Samaj Jones led his team to a 49-13 victory in semifinal game. (photo/Lou Rabito for PSD)

According to Phillips, the Hawks took no special pleasure in defeating Garnet Valley despite the Jaguars’ gaudy record.

“We respect every team we play,” said Phillips. “We just all believe in the plan that our coaches put through, and we go out there and do our job.”

Next up, a seemingly annual bus ride to Hershey, where at 6 PM Saturday the Hawks face another formidable foe – District 7 champ Mt. Lebanon. Like Garnet Valley, the Blue Devils (14-0) come in undefeated.

Mt. Lebanon hasn’t faced a squad like the Prep, whose 11-2 record includes a nine-game winning streak.

Now,” said Phillips, “we have to finish the job.”

Neumann-Goretti’s Season Comes to an End

Unfortunately for another Philadelphia Catholic League juggernaut, Class 3A champ Neumann-Goretti met its match in the state semis, losing to Wyomissing, 42-6.

The final score was a near mirror image of the Saints’ previous nine games – during with they had averaged a 42-5 win, allowing a collective 46 points along the way.

But with their passing game completely shut down, the Saints (13-2) could only muster one touchdown by junior Shawn Battle. He finished with a career-high 88 yards on 14 carries.

“We look back to when we all started practicing together and think about all the hard work we went through to get where we are right now,” said N-G junior Chris Bressi. “I’m grateful for the advice I was given by the seniors, who I will truly miss.”