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Paramus Catholic holds off St. Peter’s Prep late rally to capture Non-Public, Group 4 Title

Paramus Catholic 33, St. Peter’s Prep 28

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)


Down 14-7 at halftime and having watched St. Peter’s Prep quarterback Johnathan Lewis (21 for 37, 145 yards, 23 carries for 156 yards) amass 200 yards in the first half, Paramus Catholic (10-2) made the adjustments at halftime and dominated the second half with a punishing ground attack (400 rushing yards) en route to a 33-28 victory over the Marauders (8-4) in the Non-Public Group 4 Sectional Title Game at MetLife Stadium. It is the Paladins first state championship since 2013 and for first year Head Coach Dan Sabella.

“We never gave up on ourselves pushing forward and our coaches made the corrections at halftime and we never got down on each other and everyone in the locker room said we had to get a score and get a defensive stop,” said quarterback Andrew Brito (7-of-13, 106 yards, 14 carries for 126 yards).

“A great football game and tough last couple of minutes with St. Peter’s coming back but offensively we started clicking and put it together in the second half,” said Sabella. “Our defense had a couple of big stops and a heck of win. We got some really good players that came together and got better every week. Andrew has been clutch and doing it all year and did it on the biggest stage.”

That is exactly what the Paladins did receiving the second half opening kickoff with Brito directing a quick 5-play, 63 yard drive that was capped off by a 7-yard touchdown run by senior running back Alijah Jackson evening the score with 10:35 left. The defense took charge forcing St. Peter’s Prep into turnover on downs. Paramus Catholic seized upon the opportunity marching down the field resulting in a 24-yard go-ahead scoring pass from Brito to a wide-open wide receiver Matthew Zelaya. The extra-point attempt was no good with the Paladins holding a 20-14 advantage with 4:03 remaining.

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)

In the fourth quarter, St. Peter’s Prep caught a break with Brito fumbling the ball and Marauders linebacker Johnny Yorey recovering the ball at the Paladins 27-yard line. Once again Paramus Catholic’s defense displayed dogged determination stopping St. Peter’s Prep running back Damion Abrams short of the first down marker.

It just took one play for Alijah Jackson (11 carries for 127 yards) to electrify the crowd at Met Life Stadium ripping off an 82-yard touchdown run sprinting down the Paladins sidelines and cutting back into the middle of the field into end zone extending the Paladins lead to 26-14.

“I feel amazing and give credit to my offensive line making the blocks,” said Jackson. “It was important to change the momentum, we scored and had out head in the game and knew what we had to do. We stayed calm, made a few play changes and came out with different energy.”

After a dead ball personal foul assessed against Paramus Catholic and 20-yard kickoff return by wide receiver Jorge Portorreal gave St. Peter’s Prep good field position at the 47-yard line, Lewis orchestrated another strong drive including completing a 10-yard pass to Portorreal on 4th and 1 at the Paladins 30-yard line. However, on 2nd and goal at the 3-yard line, linebacker Tyler Whipper stripped Lewis of the ball and Khyon Fitzpatrick scooping it up and returning it to the 23.

The Paladins turned to their other featured running back Jonathan Clark( 12 carries for 130 yards) who picked up huge chunks of yardage on the ground including a 42-yard run. On 2nd and 5 at the St. Peter’s Prep, Brito took the snap briefly bobbling the ball but recovered and scampered in for the 17-yard score extending the lead to 33-21 with 5:12 on the clock.

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

(Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)

Just when you thought the Marauders were finished, Lewis engineered a 12-play, 60-yard drive that was finished off with a 4-yard score trimming the lead to 33-21 with 3:15 left. Attempting the onside kick, St. Peter’s Prep got a fortuitous bounce recovering the ball at the Paramus Catholic 31-yard. A nifty 27-yard option pass from Portorreal to Lewis resulted in Lewis finding the end zone for a 4th time plowing ahead reducing the margin to 33-28.

Feeling good about their chances, St. Peter’s Prep attempted another onside kick but the outcome was different this time after a mad scramble the Paladins came up with the ball. With the game hanging in balance, Brito delivered in the clutch and poise under pressure completing a 23-yard pass to Zelaya on a 3rd & 7 at the Marauders 46-yard line. Brito sealed the victory on a 4th and 2 wit 15 seconds, with a 4-yard QB keeper.

“We knew what we were capable of doing and came out trying to execute,” said Brito. “Our offensive line did a great job of opening up holes and defense containing their offense. Coach Sabella is a great coach and never had someone like him before and best coach I had in my life. I’m really sad I’m not going to be here next year and would do anything to have one more year with him, team and putting my Paladin jersey on.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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