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PISCATAWAY – They sat on the bench with stoic faces, staring out at a celebration that was not their own and absorbing a heartbreaking end to their season and for many, an end to their careers.

Mater Dei’s dream of winning a state championship fell two points short as the Seraphs suffered a 27-25 loss to DePaul in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 3 state championship game on Saturday night at Rutgers University’s SHI Stadium. Down 20-6 at halftime and 27-12 late in the third quarter, Mater Dei rallied but ultimately could not find the equalizing points and fell in the state final for the third year in a row.

“We have a bunch of great kids who have a lot of resilience and we knew at halftime they were going to come back,” said Mater Dei head coach Dino Mangiero. “But we gave up too many points. Special teams killed us. You can’t miss extra points.”

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A 12-yard touchdown pass from DePaul junior quarterback Andrew Butler to sophomore Marshawn Ferguson gave DePaul (7-4) a 27-12 lead with 2:26 left in the third quarter. Mater Dei received a huge second-half effort from senior Isaiah Noguera, who took over for sophomore Alex Brown after Brown was injured following a third-quarter touchdown pass. Noguera broke a 35-yard run down to the DePaul 19-yard line and then ran for 15 yards to set up a first-and-goal at the 4-yard line. Two plays later, senior running back Malik Ingram scored from three yards out to cut DePaul’s lead to 27-19 with 1:00 left in the third.

DePaul moved to midfield on its next possession but a third-down sack by senior defensive end Khurram Simpson forced a punt. Mater Dei took over at its own 22-yard line but needed just five plays to get back into the end zone. After moving the ball just shy of midfield, junior wide receiver Naran Buntin took a jet sweep and zoomed 51 yards to the end zone to bring the Seraphs (8-4) within two points. One blocked extra point and another miss earlier in the game had Mater Dei chasing points and thus needed to attempt a 2-point conversion to tie the score after Buntin’s touchdown run. Noguera faked a handoff to Ingram and tried to find room up the middle but was stopped at the 2-yard line by sophomore linebackers Kenneth Pierce and Patrick Kiefer.

The Mater Dei defense then came up with another critical stop to force a three-and-out. Junior defensive end Dominick Giudice sacked Butler on third down – his third sack of the game – and Mater Dei got the ball back with great field position at its own 45-yard line with 5:25 left to play.

The Seraphs could not gain a first down, however, as senior wide receiver Clarence Lewis was stopped for no gain on a jet sweep on first down and Noguera gained five and three yards on the next two plays to bring up fourth-and-2 from the DePaul 47. Mater Dei elected to punt.

“We had stopped them four drives in a row (two in a row, four out of five in the second half) and we had the timeouts,” Mangiero said. “We figured punt it to the 1-yard line, which we did (5-yard line), but we just couldn’t stop them.”

Jake Jacobson’s punt was a beauty that landed at about the 20-yard line and rolled to the 5-yard line where it was downed with 3:11 on the clock. Mater Dei had two timeouts remaining and a defense that was playing great but couldn’t get the necessary stop. On first down, Jordan Sellers ran for 18 yards out to the 23-yard line. After two short rushes and Mater Dei using its final two timeouts, DePaul was faced with third-and-3 at the 30-yard line. Instead of sticking to the ground game, the Spartans put the ball in the air as Butler hit De’mere White on a quick pass for six yards and a first down, clinching the state championship.

DePaul’s electric passing game lived up to its billing as Butler completed 24 of 34 passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Tedy Afful caught 10 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown of 50 yards and White caught five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. Butler also had a 1-yard touchdown run on the final play of the first half.

Mater Dei outgained DePaul, 400-392, on the strength of 292 yards rushing. Ingram ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries and Noguera ran for 103 yards on just eight carries – all in the first half. Brown completed 6 of 12 passes for 108 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Lewis had a 48-yard touchdown catch and Noguera had two catches for 41 yards.

DePaul took the opening kickoff and marched 69 yards in nine plays to take a 7-0 lead. The Spartans converted three third downs on the drive, culminating with White taking a short pass, spinning out of a tackle and scoring a 9-yard touchdown.

Mater Dei responded with a long drive that spanned the end of the first quarter and the first two minutes of the second quarter. The Seraphs drove 78 yards in 13 plays with Ingram carrying the ball eight times for 55 yards. He capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run, but the extra point was blocked leaving DePaul still ahead, 7-6.

DePaul needed just three plays to get back into the end zone. After a 13-yard catch by Afful moved the ball to midfield, Butler found Afful over the middle for a 50-yard touchdown. Mater Dei returned the favor to block the extra point and keep its deficit at seven points.

Mater Dei put together another impressive drive behind the power running of Ingram. On third and goal from the 5-yard line Ingram was stopped after a gain of two yards and Mater Dei sent out senior Rich Pekmezian to attempt a 20-yard field goal. The field goal was good but DePaul was flagged for an offsides penalty, which moved the ball half the distance to the goal line. With the ball just outside the 1-yard line, Mater Dei elected to take the penalty and go for it on fourth-and-goal. DePaul’s defense came up with the stop, however, stonewalling Ingram inches before the end zone. The play was reviewed but the original call was upheld.

“The ball’s at the 1-yard line and you have a 220-pound back,” Mangiero said. “We thought we should go for it.”

Mater Dei was able to force a three-and-out and get the ball back with great field position at the DePaul 29 with 2:20 left in the half. The Seraphs had a chance to make up for the failed fourth-down conversion but the drive stalled at the 24-yard line after three plays. Mater Dei sent out Pekmezian for a 41-yard field goal attempt, but the kick was short.

Mater Dei was unable to get points on consecutive drives well inside DePaul territory, and after the second miss the Spartans made the Seraphs pay. Starting from the 20-yard line, DePaul went 80 yards in seven plays to beat the buzzer and take a 20-6 halftime lead. A 20-yard catch by Afful was followed by a 50-yard reception down to the Mater Dei 20-yard line. After a sack, Butler hit Edward Conoran for 13 yards down to the 1-yard line. Butler tried a quarterback sneak on third down but was stopped, and as the clock was ticking toward zero the Spartans ran the same play, this time with Butler stretching the ball over the goal line on fourth-and-goal. Matthew Wilderson’s extra point made it 20-6 at the break.

Mater Dei pulled to within 20-12 midway through the third quarter when Noguera hauled in a 31-yard pass on second-and-27 and two plays later Lewis won a jump ball against two DePaul defenders and scored on a 48-yard touchdown. The extra points was unsuccessful, leaving Mater Dei behind by eight points.

DePaul’s fourth and eventual game-winning touchdown came after White took a shovel pass and raced 52 yards down to the Mater Dei 20-yard line. Two plays later, Ferguson was in the end zone on a 12-yard touchdown.

Mater Dei has reached four straight state finals but is 1-3 in those games. The Seraphs went 12-0 and won the Non-Public Group 2 title in 2016, the first in school history. They lost to St. Joseph (Hammonton) in the 2017 NP-2 final and fell to RBC, 14-10, in last season’s NP-3 final. DePaul’s state title is the seventh in program history, second in three years and fifth in the last seven years.

 

 Box Score

DePaul 27, Mater Dei Prep 25 

 Mater DeiDePaul
First downs1815
Rushes-yards43-29224-29
Passing6-16-124-34-0
Passing yards108363
Fumbles-lost0-00-0
Penalties-yards3-317-53

 

1234F
Mater Dei (8-4)0613625
DePaul (7-4)7137027

 

Scoring summary

D – De’mere White 9-yard pass from Andrew Butler (Matthew Wilderson kick)

MD – Malik Ingram 2-yard run (kick blocked)

D – Tedy Afful 50-yard pass from Andrew Butler (kick blocked)

D – Andrew Butler 1-yard run (Matthew Wilderson kick)

MD – Clarence Lewis 48-yard pass from Alex Brown (kick failed)

D – Marshawn Ferguson 12-yard pass from Andrew Butler (Matthew Wilderson kick)

M – Malik Ingram 3-yard run (Rich Pekmezian kick)

M – Naran Buntin 51-yard run (run failed)

 

Individual statistics

RUSHING – MD: Malik Ingram 24-104, Isaiah Noguera 8-103, Naran Buntin 2-52, Alex Brown 5-16, Kyree Drake 2-15, Clarence Lewis 2-2; D: Jordan Sellers 7-26, De’mere White 5-19, Tedy Afful 1-7, Marshawn Ferguson 1-3, Andrew Butler 7-(-21), Team 1-(-4).

PASSING – MD: Alex Brown 6-16-1 108; D: Andrew Butler 24-34-0 336.

RECEIVING – MD: Clarence Lewis 2-49, Isaiah Noguera 2-41, Malik Ingram 1-9, Kyree Drake 1-9; D: Tedy Afful 10-203, De’mere White 5-80, Charles Finley 3-41, Nuccio Lisitano 3-10, Marshawn Ferguson 2-16, Edward Conoran 1-13.

INTERCEPTIONS – D: A’Khoury Lyde, 1-0.

 

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.