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NON-PUBLIC GROUP 3 CHAMPIONSHIP

WHO: 3-Mater Dei Prep (8-3) vs. 1-DePaul (6-4)

WHEN: Saturday, Dec. 7, 7 p.m.

WHERE: SHI Stadium at Rutgers University

MATER DEI’S ROAD TO THE FINAL: Defeated Pope John, 49-14; defeated Red Bank Catholic, 10-3.

DEPAUL’S ROAD TO THE FINAL: Defeated Donovan Catholic, 35-21.

MATER DEI’S BEST WINS: 41-7 over Central Jersey Group 4 finalist Jackson Memorial; 17-0 over Manalapan, 10-3 over Red Bank Catholic.

DEPAUL’S BEST WINS: 31-28 over Bergen Catholic; 55-21 over Seton Hall Prep; 35-21 over Donovan Catholic.

PLAYOFF HISTORY: Mater Dei will be making its fourth straight appearance in a state championship game – all under fourth-year head coach Dino Mangiero, who has transformed the Seraphs into a Shore and state power. Mater Dei went 12-0 and won the Non-Public Group 2 state title in 2016, fell to St. Joseph (Hammonton) in the NP-2 championship game in 2017 and lost to Red Bank Catholic in last season’s Non-Public Group 3 title game. The Seraphs are 12-12 all-time across 14 postseason appearances…DePaul has a long and successful playoff history with 28 appearances and 15 trips to the final with six state titles. The Spartans last state championship came in 2017 when they defeated St. Joseph (Montvale) in the Non-Public Group 3 championship game. The two teams met in last season’s state semifinals when Mater Dei won a classic on the road, 28-23, with a great comeback in the fourth quarter.

MATER DEI STAT LEADERS

-Malik Ingram, Sr., RB: 1,376 yards rushing and 19 TDs on 8.4 yards per carry; 12 rec. for 136 yards and 2 TDs.

-Alex Brown, So., QB: 1,608 yards passing, 66% completions, 14 TDs, 6 INTs; 227 yards rushing and 1 TD.

-Clarence Lewis, Sr., WR/DB: 37 rec. for 587 yards and 4 TDs; 3 INTs.

-Isaiah Noguera, Sr., WR/DB: 16 rec. for 324 yards and 2 TDs, 200 yards rushing and 3 TDs; 4 INTs.

-Naran Buntin, Jr., WR: 19 rec. for 320 yards and 4 TDs; 2 rushing TDs.

-Kyree Drake, So., WR: 15 rec. for 216 yards and 2 TDs.

-Dominick Giudice, Jr., DE: 14.5 sacks

-Khurram Simpson, Sr., DE: 13.5 sacks

-Rich Pekmezian, Sr., K: 17-for-18 XP, 3 FGs, long of 38.

DEPAUL STAT LEADERS

-Andrew Butler, Jr., QB: 2,527 yards passing, 64% completions, 25 TDs, 6 INTs; 3 rushing TDs.

-Tedy Afful, Sr., WR: 44 rec. for 1,143 yards and 8 TDs

-Jordan Sellers, Jr., RB: 559 yards rushing and 3 TDs on 7.4 ypc.

-Sean Kelly, Sr., RB: 508 yards rushing and 8 TDs on 6.3 ypc.

-De’mere White, Jr., RB: 437 yards rushing and 4 TDs on 8.9 ypc; 26 rec. for 319 yards and 4 TDs.

-Charles Finley, Sr., TE: 26 rec. for 322 yards and 7 TDs.

-Qyaeir Prince, So., DE: 10.5 sacks, 21 tackles for loss, 68 total tackles.

-Qumar Howard, So., SS/OLB: 5 sacks, 9 TFL, 38 total tackles

-A’Khoury Lyde, So., CB: 3 INTs, 16 pass breakups, 37 tackles.

-Matthew Wilderson, Jr., K: 33-for-33 XPs, 3 FGs, long of 35.

Mater Dei running back Malik Ingram. (Photo by Richard O'Donnell).

BREAKDOWN

Mater Dei’s offense vs. DePaul’s defense

Mater Dei boasts a balanced offense that will enter the state final averaging 29 points per game, but the centerpiece of the Seraphs attack is unquestionably senior running back Malik Ingram. The 5-foot-7, 215-pound senior is a powerful back who also has exceptional balance. He runs hard yet under control and is a beast to tackle one-on-one. He’s had an up and down season by his standards, but in games he’s received at least 19 carries he’s averaged 208 and two touchdowns. He detonated Pope John with a career-high 313 yards and 4 touchdowns in the quarterfinals and then ran for 147 yards and a touchdown against a stout Red Bank Catholic defense in the semifinals. With a state championship on the line, expect a heavy dose of No. 22.

Complimenting a punishing ground attack is a very productive passing game that rides on the arm of sophomore quarterback Alex Brown. As the Shore Conference’s second-leading passer, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Brown has thrown for 1,608 yards and 14 touchdowns against six interceptions. He has a variety of playmakers to throw to, led by senior Clarence Lewis. The Notre Dame commit as a defensive back has been great on the offensive side of the ball with 37 receptions for 587 yards and four touchdowns. Versatile senior Isaiah Noguera adds 16 catches for 324 yards and two touchdowns and junior Naran Buntin has 19 receptions for 320 yards and four touchdowns. Add in sophomore Kyree Drake (15 for 216 and 2 TDs) and Ingram (12 for 136 and 2 TDs) out of the backfield and Brown has five legit options when he drops back.

Mater Dei quarterback Alex Brown. (Photo by Richard O'Donnell).

The defensive numbers for DePaul aren’t flattering, but you have to consider the Spartans’ schedule when digesting the fact they’ve allowed 30 points per game this season. Among DePaul’s opponents this season were St. Joseph (Montvale), St. Peter’s Prep, Don Bosco Prep and Bergen Catholic. Where the Spartans hurt teams is with negative plays and turnovers. They’ve recovered 11 fumbles and intercepted five passes, totaled 33.5 sacks and piled up 61 tackles for loss. It’s a young group as a whole and has a trio of sophomores who have had big seasons. Defensive end Qyaeir Price leads the way with 10.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss while outside linebacker/strong safety Qumar Howard has 5 sacks, 9 TFL and 38 total tackles. Cornerback A’Khoury Lyde has three interceptions and 16 pass breakups. Junior outside linebacker Zachary Relovsky is the team’s leading tackler with 70 stops.

DePaul’s offense vs. Mater Dei’s defense

Outside of a 37-14 loss to Connecticut prep power St. Thomas More, Mater Dei’s defense has been outstanding this season. The defense did not allow more than two touchdowns in any other game this season and has recorded four shutouts. In seven of 11 games, Mater Dei has allowed one or fewer touchdowns. The Seraphs enter the state final allowing just 9.9 points per game.

Mater Dei’s defense will face its greatest challenge thus far, however, in opposing a DePaul passing game that is among the state’s best. Junior left-handed quarterback Andrew Butler (6-4, 200) is sixth in the state in passing with 2,527 yards and 25 touchdowns and has one of New Jersey’s top wideouts as his No. 1 target. Senior Tedy Afful is fourth in the state in receiving with 44 catches for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior tight end Charles Finley is a red-zone presence with 26 catches for 322 yards and seven touchdowns and junior running back De’mere White has 26 catches for 319 yards and four touchdowns. White also has 437 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 8.9 yards per carry. Junior Jordan Sellers (559 yards and 3 TDs) and senior Sean Kelly (508 yards and 8 TDs) lead the ground game.

Most teams aren’t equipped with a secondary to handle that many playmakers, but Mater Dei actually has the personnel to match up. The Seraphs have the option to put the Notre Dame-bound Lewis on Afful and attempt to neutralize Butler’s favorite target. Mater Dei also has senior Tahaj Parland, an underrated standout, plus senior Isaiah Noguera, who leads the team with four interceptions.

To make life easier, Mater Dei will need big games from their bookends, senior Khurram Simpson and junior Dominick Giudice. The two have combined for 28 sacks this season and if they, along with senior defensive tackle Amir Coleman, can consistently win up front Mater Dei will have the upper hand.

Special teams

Both teams have reliable kickers, so if a critical field goal is needed both squads can feel confident sending out their guy with the game potentially on the line.

Mater Dei senior Rich Pekmezian had to sit out the first four games after transferring from Shore Regional and in seven games has converted 17 of 18 extra points and kicked three field goals with a long of 38 yards.

For DePaul, junior Matthew Wilderson is a perfect 33-for-33 on extra points and has kicked three field goals with a long of 35 yards.

PREDICTION: Mater Dei 28-21.

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.