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St. Joseph’s Prep coach Tim Roken may have spent more time on the phone this football season than he did coaching. The Hawks may have spent more time wondering where they were going to practice than actually practicing.
It didn’t matter.
The seniors on this historic St. Joe’s Prep team were on a quest to do something no other PIAA large school had done in over 20 years: Threepeat.
Add in a team filled with angst over having games cancelled and stymied by the chance to prove just good they are and the Hawks were a squad about to explode.
That they did on Central York, 62-13, on Saturday night at Hersheypark Stadium to become the first threepeat Pennsylvania large school state champion since the legendary Central Bucks West teams (1997, ’98, and ’99) of late coaching icon Mike Pettine.
The Hawks, ranked No. 3 nationally by USA Today and MaxPreps, won their sixth state championship, their fourth in five seasons, and their sixth overall in eight years.
“Since March, when this whole thing got shut down (due to the COVID-19 pandemic), I told the guys how hard it was being separated from your family,” Roken said. “I told the guys this morning about the sacrifices this program made, especially for the seniors. This group of seniors and this coaching staff, I’m grateful for them.
“It was frustrating. Cardinal O’Hara was amazing to us this week, allowing us to practice there. We were all over the place, but this is bittersweet, saying goodbye to a special group of seniors. They did things that haven’t been done in a while, and may never be done again.”
The Hawks scored on 10 of their 13 drives.
Ohio State-bound senior quarterback Kyle McCord completed 21-of-28 passes for 337 yards and 4 TDs, while senior receiver Sahmir Hagans caught a game-high 8 passes for 156 yards, including a touchdown.
Temple-bound Prep senior receiver Malik Cooper was a one-man wrecking crew. He caught five passes for 114 yards and a touchdown, returned a punt for a score and threw a 55-yard touchdown pass, while Ohio State-bound Marvin Harrison Jr., the son of Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, hauled in three passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns.
Harrison established a new Philadelphia city high school record with 37 career touchdown catches and McCord set a new city record with 88 career TD passes with his four scoring strikes.
The goal for everyone wearing maroon and grey was to threepeat.
“It meant a lot to threepeat and we predicted this would happen before the season started,” Cooper said. “After our freshmen year, the seniors promised that we should never lose again. I think I’ll remember how much and how hard this group worked.
“Even with the COVID-19 stuff, we never gave up. We practiced all over the place, and we had games cancelled, and we never gave up. Our goal was to get here and win this—and we did. We made history.”
Prep bolted out to a 24-0 lead and were never threatened. The Hawks’ defense hindered almost everything Central York Penn State-bound quarterback Beau Pribula tried. He finished completing 19 of 38, for 163 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions.
There was one sequence when Pribula tried stopping Cooper on a 47-yard punt return for a third-quarter touchdown and was terribly deked out, left grasping at nothing but air. In frustration, the 6-foot-3 junior slammed his helmet on the Hersheypark Stadium turf when he returned to the Panthers’ sideline.
“We had games cancelled, we had things delayed, we had to constantly move practices around because we weren’t allowed to practice in the city, and there was a whole lot of different challenges we never faced,” McCord said. “But we came out of it with this (state championship). We have something that I’ll always remember, because of the guys I did it with, from the staff, to each player on this team.”
(Summary) FINAL STATS
St. Joseph’s Prep (6-0) 10-28-17-7-62-
Central York (10-1) 0-7-0-7-13-
St. Joe’s Prep – Antonio Chadha 39 FG, 6:42
St. Joe’s Prep – Noble House 1 run (Chadha kick), 1:36
St. Joe’s Prep – Marvin Harrison Jr. 7 pass from Kyle McCord (Chadha kick), 9:37
St. Joe’s Prep – Harrison Jr. 45 pass from McCord (Chadha kick), 6:42
Central York – Jahmar Simpson 10 pass from Beau Pribula (Cole Luckenbaugh kick), 2:13
St. Joe’s Prep – Malik Cooper 79 pass from McCord (Chadha kick), 1:42
St. Joe’s Prep – Sahmir Hagans 55 pass from Malik Cooper (Chadha kick), :48
St. Joe’s Prep – Cooper 47 punt return yards (Chadha kick), 10:50
St. Joe’s Prep – Chadha 47 FG, 4:44
St. Joe’s Prep – Cade Rooney 13 pass from McCord (Chadha kick), :08
St. Joe’s Prep – House 6 run (Chadha kick), 5:42
Central York – Jakob Terpak fumble recovery in end zone (run failed), 2:11
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been covering high school football since 1992 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito. Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball.
Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball