St. Joseph’s Prep Staves Off Pine-Richland Comeback For PIAA Title

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A furious fourth-quarter rally by Pine-Richland fell just short as the Rams were defeated in a wild PIAA title game, 49-41, to St. Joseph’s Prep from Hersheypark Stadium on Saturday night. It was the second consecutive state title for St. Joseph’s who beat Central Catholic last season for the Quad-A championship.

The Rams trailed 42-21 in the fourth quarter, but stormed back behind three Ben DiNucci touchdown passes to cut the score to 42-41.  Following DiNucci’s 31-yard touchdown strike to D’Ondre Gastion with 2:15 remaining, Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz, decided to go for the lead on a two-point conversion try.  The gamble failed, however, as a DiNucci pass attempt was thwarted by Prep and the Rams remained behind by one-point.

St. Joseph’s Prep recovered the ensuing on-side kick and took a 49-41 lead moments later on a 47-yard run by De’Andre Swift. Swift rushed 23 times for 226 yards and four touchdowns.

Undaunted, the Rams drove to Prep’s 25-yard line with 2.9 seconds to play but a DiNucci desperation heave into the end zone was intercepted to end the ballgame.

The game set several PIAA championship-game records. The 90 points scored combined was the second most in a Quad-A final.  DiNucci, who became the first quarterback in Pennsylvania history to throw for 4,000 yards in a season, passed for a championship-game record 383 yards.  His four touchdowns tied a record set by Berwick’s Ron Powlus in the 1992 finals.  PR receiver Mike Merhaut set a championship-game record with 14 receptions.  Merhaut, Gastion and Anthony Battaglia all posted 100 yards receiving.

Pine-Richland finishes the season with a 15-1 record.