EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A first-half standoff turned into a second-half stampede. For the second straight year, Don Bosco Prep used a strong finish to win New Jersey's Non-Public Group 4 state championship Saturday afternoon.
The Ironmen, No. 16 in the ESPN HIGH Elite 25 high school football rankings, rattled off their 24th consecutive victory at Giants Stadium with a 42-14 blowout of No. 23 St. Peter's Prep before 10,000 chilled fans.
Don Bosco (12-0) scored twice early in the third quarter for a 21-7 lead to secure its fourth state championship in nine seasons under coach Greg Toal and seventh overall since 1974, the first year New Jersey instituted a playoff format.
St. Peter's played shorthanded in the second half when all-everything Will Hill, the No. 2 player in the ESPN 150, was grounded with a high ankle sprain. With Hill hobbling, the Marauders offense sputtered.
"They're a different team without him," Toal said. "He does so much; he's their guy."
In the first half, Hill ran for 108 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Without Hill's shifty moves and cool demeanor at quarterback, the Marauders' run-oriented attack managed 31 yards.
"There's no excuse for the second half," St. Peter's coach Rich Hansen said. "It hurts when you don't have the best player in the country but still had 11 players on the field."
Hill and Hansen were the last two out of the tunnel following the half. Hansen said his star player was injured late in the second quarter and received medical treatment in the locker room.
"He [Hill] battled but couldn't go," Hansen admitted.
Don Bosco struck for two touchdowns in the first seven minutes of the third quarter, including sophomore Tony Jones' 43-yard run off a fake punt for a 21-7 lead.
Hill's last stand occurred on the first play from scrimmage following the ensuing kickoff as he fired an 80-yard strike to junior tailback Nyshier Oliver (64 yards rushing), who lined up as a flanker, reducing the deficit to 21-14. Oliver streaked down the middle of the field on a post pattern, catching Hill's pass in stride for the score.
St. Peter's regained possession but Steve Proscia scored his second TD of the day, returning an interception 30 yards for a 28-14 lead with 2:06 left in the third.
"He always seems to make a big play just when you need one," Toal said of Proscia, who is considered one of the state's top senior baseball players. "Steve's a great competitor; he's one of my favorite players ever."
It was Proscia's 20-yard TD reception with 8 seconds left in the first half which shifted momentum to the Ironmen. The game was tied at 7.
"It was a very big play; it settled us down in the locker room," Jones said.
Instead of settling for a field goal late in the first half, Toal elected to "take a shot at the end zone. We came here to win," he said.
The St. Peter's game plan at the onset was simple: run Hill and Oliver. It worked for 24 minutes.
The Marauders took a 7-0 lead when Hill sped seven yards. It was vintage Hill, who appeared stopped but cut back and outraced defenders to the pylon with two minutes left in the second quarter.
Don Bosco then tied it late in the half and took the lead for good in the third when Jones fumbled into the end zone, but senior guard Logan Siska recovered for a 14-7 lead with 9:27 left.
Jones rushed for 131 yards and two TDs, and Dillon Romaine ran for 111 yards as part of the Ironmen's 310 yards of total offense.
"Our offensive line worked hard this year; we're proud of them," tight end/safety Alexander DiSanzo said of the unit, which returned four starters in 2007 along with the backfield.
Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA TODAY, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball and boys and girls basketball. He also for worked for Scholastic Coach magazine, where he ran the Gatorade national player of the year program for nine years. Lawlor, a New Jersey resident, grew up in Rochester, N.Y. and is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.