When we spoke with St. Joseph’s Prep head coach Gabe Infante on our radio show back in September 4th, he made no bones about why the Hawks play a tough non-league schedule. He said it was to get his team ready for the grueling run at another Class AAAA championship.
After a 1-3 start that knocked SJP from #10 in our High School Football America Preseason Rankings, the Hawks rebounded to win ten straight to win their second straight state title. Infante and his kids captured state championship #2 Saturday night with a heart-stopping 49-41 win over previously unbeaten Pine-Richland (15-1). It’s the second straight year that St. Joe’s (11-3) has won the state crown with three loses.
The title game down to the final play of the night when the Hawks’ Olamide Zaccheaus intercepted Ben DiNucci‘s final pass of the game in the end zone.
The pick ended a fast-and-furious fourth quarter that saw Pine-Richland battle back from a 42-21 deficit. The Rams closed the gap to 42-41 late in the fourth, but were denied the lead when St. Joe’s stopped their two-point conversion attempt.
SJP increased the lead to 49-41 with 1:49 to go in the game when sophomore running back De’Andre Swift scored on a 47 yard run. Swift, who scored four second half touchdowns, finished with 226 yards on the night. Actually, had Swift taken a knee before crossing the goal line, the Hawks could have locked-up the win earlier, because Pine-Richland had no timeouts left.
Instead, the Rams behind DiNucci were able to drive to the Hawks’ 32 yard line, before being stopped on the Zaccheaus interception. DiNucci set a state passing record with 383 yards passing on 32-0f-46.
You can also listen to our September interview with Infante below.