|VIDEO: DePaul runs by St. John Vianney for third straight crown|
Neither a switch in groups in groups nor an undefeated opponent could prevent DePaul from winning its third straight football state title. The Spartans pulled away in the second half to defeat St. John Vianney, 40-17, to capture the Non-Public Group III crown.
As usual, it was the DePaul running game that made the difference. The Spartans compiled 319 yards on the ground, with Kareem Walker and Nasir Hooker both surpassing 100 yards on the day.
DePaul, which won championships the last two seasons in Group II, only won three regular-season games against a difficult schedule. But the Spartans got into the states as the seventh seed, and rolled through two road games before this final at Rutgers University.
The Spartans moved out into the lead in the first quarter and built a 20-10 advantage at the half. St. John Vianney appeared to seize momentum after halftime, stopping DePaul twice and cutting the lead to 20-17. But eventually the Spartans wore the Lancers down, with three impressive touchdown drives in the third and fourth quarters to secure the win.
Walker ran for 195 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The heavily-recruited running back made a spectacular play in the second quarter when he turned what looked like a short gain into a 47-yard run to set up a DePaul score.
Hooker, who has been a crucial second weapon for the Spartans during its run to the title, ran for 106 yards and two scores. He also threw a 35-yard option pass to set up the touchdown that gave DePaul a 27-17 lead.
DePaul quarterback Shelton Applewhite only threw eight passes, but two proved crucial, as he completed fourth-down throws that resulted in touchdowns. Applewhite finished 6-for-8 for 56 yards. Terrell Vassel and Hasise Dubois caught the touchdown passes.
St. John Vianney's high-powered offense was made decidedly one-dimensional by the Spartans. While the Lancers had success throwing the ball, they ran for a total of just 10 yards in the game.
Anthony Brown completed 19-of-30 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown. Khalil Haskins caught seven balls for 109 yards, and Michael Stapert had five catches for 72 yards.
Brown did manage a touchdown run, but was under pressure for much of the game and was sacked five times. Vinny DePalma had two of the sacks and 11 tackles overall, while Scott Lavelle also recorded 11 tackles, including one sack.
The Spartans also caused three turnovers, including a key fumble that set up their first touchdown.
DePaul finishes the season at 6-6 but was 5-3 against New Jersey competition, with its only losses coming to fellow members of the powerful Big North United Division.
St. John Vianney, the top seed in Non-Public Group III, ends its season at 11-1.
For sports video highlights of this New Jersey high school football state playoff final, click play in the box at left.