DePaul Catholic redeemed itself after last year's heartbreaking loss to Red Bank Catholic, rallying to win the Non-Public B state title game against RBC, 19-17. at MetLife Stadium.
The Spartans was down 10-0 during the second quarter as it looked like RBC would win back-to-back state titles for the first time in school history. DePaul was determined to avoid letting another chance of capturing a state championship slip away and gain vengeance over RBC.
RBC got the ground game starting early in the first quarter as senior running back Sabino Portella earned himself a first down for an 11-yard run giving RBC a first down as they inched their way deep in DePaul's territory. On the next play, a facemask penalty gave RBC first-and-goal from the 10-yard line late in the 1st quarter.
DePaul's defense made a big stop on third-and-goal as time expired in the quarter. On the first play of the second quarter, RBC converted a 17-yard chip shot field goal giving them a 3-0 lead for the first points on Friday afternoon.
A quick drive from DePaul forced them to give the ball back as RBC started at their 42-yard line. RBC continued to feed Portella as they marched down the field after a pair of first downs. After a big run on third-and-12 from Portella, he brought them to the 9-yard line making it first-and-goal. RBC let Portella finish the drive off as he forced his way into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown run with 4:10 left in the first half. Portella finished 99 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown.
The ensuing kickoff is where DePaul showed they could stay composed, as they were down two scores on New Jersey High School football's biggest stage. Jaden Johnson had a huge return, giving DePaul excellent field possession at their own 40-yard line.
Freshman quarterback Derek Zammit threw a dart over the middle to Dez Jones for a 60-yard catch and run for the score to make it 10-7 with 3:52 remaining in the first half. Those two plays brought Depaul's crowd back into the game, giving DePaul a great atmosphere to shine.
Late in the first half, DePaul had the chance to tie the game with 19 seconds left with a 29-yard field goal. Kicker Luke Monteyne made it look easy, evening up the game at ten heading into the half.
With momentum brewing in the locker room at halftime for DePaul, they learned what they needed to do to help earn themselves a state title. DePaul's defense and special teams made crucial plays in the second half.
The second half had unbelievable plays that would change the game's trajectory. RBC seemed to be in major trouble after a bad snap on a punt, but a lucky roll gave DePaul the ball at their own 41-yard line. Later in the drive on third-and-1 from the 50, Zammit showed why he would be one of the most exciting players to watch while he continues to develop over the next three years.
Zammit looked to throw, but the ball bounced off the helmet of one of DePaul's offensive linemen. Zammit made an athletic move making a one-handed grab from the deflection, gaining DePaul's biggest first down of the entire game.
Major third-down conversions helped DePaul finish the drive on a 7-yard touchdown carry from running back Anthony Almeida. The score gave DePaul their first lead of the game with only 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
All three units came together to avoid letting the state title slip away. Senior defensive lineman Anthony Almeida had his second sack of the day, which forced RBC to punt. Almeida showed up all day for the Spartan defense as he made plays all game.
When your senior leader makes plays like that, it affects a sophomore special teams player like Steven Fiorendino. The deciding factor of the matchup would be in the hands of Fiordenio when RBC was forced to punt deep in their own end zone. Fiordenio brought pressure and had the perfect form to block the punt while also avoiding hitting the kicker, as the ball landed in the back of the end zone to make it 19-10 with only 7:18 remaining in the game.
RBC had to turn to the passing game as they were down two scores with limited time remaining. Frankie Williams helped march RBC down the field as Robert Stolfa caught the 10-yard touchdown pass diving at the pylon making it 19-17 with 3:22 remaining left in regulation.
RBC had one last chance to earn themselves another state title as they got the ball back with 2:53 remaining. Both crowds were loud and the intensity was high at MetLife. The seniors on DePaul's defensive line did not allow Williams to allow RBC to come back, sacking Williams on third down.
RBC could not capitalize on fourth-and-long with two minutes left as DePaul found redemption to take the state championship. Last year's heartbreaking loss helped the Spartans earn the victory.
The excitement on the field was incredible, as it was apparent that this win meant the world to the players of DePaul Catholic. Head Coach Nick Campanile was bloody from the celebration on the field after their first state title win since 2019.
DePaul Catholic proved all year long that they could overcome the adversity thrown at them all year. We now have a tremendous rivalry brewing in the Non-Public B NJSIAA Group as DePaul avenged RBC. This team came together on all sides as DePaul's players and coaches walked off the MetLife Stadium field with a state championship trophy.