St. Joe’s Prep smashes Harrisburg, 42-7, in the Class 6A championship for its seventh state crown
Written by: Joseph Santoliquito on Sunday, December 11th, 2022. Follow Joseph Santoliquito on Twitter.
Photo courtesy of Matt Topper
MECHANICSBURG, PA — Nothing was going to stop them. From the first meetings in January to summer practice, to the first snap in balmy Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, nothing was going to get in the way of the St. Joseph Prep Hawks from winning another PIAA Class 6A state championship but time.
That time came Saturday night when Samaj Jones, Josiah Trotter, and the Hawks unloaded 365 days of frustration out on Harrisburg, 42-7, in the PIAA Class 6A state championship at Chapman Field at Cumberland Valley High School.
Jones completed 9-of-10 for 262 yards and four touchdowns, while the West Virginia-bond Trotter made a game-high 13 tackles—11 in the first half.
The usually reserved Hawks’ coach Tim Roken even got a little emotional addressing his team after the victory, and there was a reason why.
“It was a long 356 days and there were a lot of sleepless nights, thinking about how we ended last year,” he said. “This is a group that made it a goal in January to make sure we finish the mission this time. These seniors made sure to play for last year’s seniors, and these underclassmen made sure these seniors went out the right way.
“I’m so proud of our coaches, how hard they work and the sacrifices they made. I told our guys last night when things weren’t going well early on, this group is relentless, and we saw that in the first game against St. Thomas Aquinas (in Ft. Lauderdale). We wanted to sharpen the edge and make sure we were playing our best football at the right time of the year.”
Jones felt he had to retrace his steps. He knows exactly what he was doing, what he did, and where he spent the final minutes of last year’s PIAA Class 6A state championship.
Jones, the St. Joe’s Prep 6-foot-1, 210-pound gifted junior quarterback, watched from the bench in 2021 when the Hawks lost to Mount Lebanon in the state finals. Jones was pulled from the game because the last time he threw a pass in 2021, it was aimed at the back of the Mt. Lebanon player’s helmet in frustration.
The memory burned in his mind for a year.
He was building for an explosion.
“This is everything I wanted, and I never wanted anything more than this. There were a lot of doubters out there,” Jones said. “There is a drastic change from where I was last year, that kid watching from the bench feeling sorry for myself, to who I am now.
“This was a statement. I have a ring now—and I earned it. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
It was the seventh state championship in the last decade for the Hawks, who are 7-2 in title games (winning in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2022, losing in 2017 and 2021). The Hawks (12-1) have now won four of the last five 6A titles and five of the last seven since the PIAA instituted the Class 6A system in 2016.
The St. Joe Prep seniors graduate as three-time state champions in four years, with the 2021 loss to Mount Lebanon (35-17) serving as powerful motivation to get back this year.
Trotter had a difficult time last year with the state title loss. He had a difficult time watching the seniors walk off the field the last time without a state title—which is becoming a rarity at St. Joe’s Prep. Against Harrisburg (11-3), Trotter was a tackle machine, with his name called by the PA announcer on every other play.
“That bothered me losing last year and seeing our seniors walk off the way they did. It’s why I wanted to get back,” Trotter said. “I thank God for what we went through. We really felt like we had a fire; that we had something to prove. That fire came out in the first game of the season. That loss from last year didn’t send off the seniors in the right way. I wanted to send the seniors off the right way this time.”
On the first play of the game, Jones bolted through the middle of the field for a 65-yard touchdown, igniting the Hawks’ offense towards 420 yards of total offense and scores on their first five drives.
“That first play set the tone, it was a missed assignment on our behalf, but you can’t have MAs against teams like that,” Harrisburg coach Calvin Everett said. “This moment right here is really going to make us better moving forward. We’re a really young team. We have to grow from this and use this to come to this offseason and build, and build, and build. Hopefully, we’re going to be ready for the moment when it comes again.”
Harrisburg’s lone touchdown came against the Hawks’ second-team defense when Shawn Lee Jr. hit Kyle Williams for a 66-yard touchdown pass with 4:28 to play.
The Cougars’ first chance to score came with 7:51 left in the third quarter after Harrisburg’s Raytel Bryant intercepted Jones. Harrisburg drove to the Hawks’ four, though turned the ball over on downs when Hawks’ linebacker Nick McGlynn sacked Lee at the 10.
The Hawks turned that into a 42-0 lead when Jones hit Owen Garwood with a 16-yard touchdown pass with 10:49 left to play and the game well over.
The game was actually over by halftime.
St. Joe Prep scored on its first five possessions, surging out to a 35-0 lead, scoring on five of their first 16 plays. Its drive chart read: 1 play, TD; 8 plays, TD; 2 plays, TD; 2 plays, TD; and 3 plays, TD.
By halftime, the Hawks had outgained Harrisburg, 311-127, averaging 18.29 yards a play to Harrisburg’s 3.85.
On the Hawks’ first 11 plays, they scored three times, and gained 200 yards of total offense. After Samaj Jones’ 57-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Jones with 5:56 left in the half, the Hawks were averaging 19.5 yards a play. Of the Hawks’ first 13 plays, they only faced third down twice, one on a third-and-22 that Jones converted on a 44-yard completion to David Washington.
Samaj Jones was 7-for-7 for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Washington caught four of those passes for 123 yards, averaging 30.8 yards a catch while the game was somewhat competitive.
But it’s a game and a season that was really over before it started.
Nothing was going to stop Samaj Jones, Josiah Trotter, and St. Joseph’s Prep from winning the PIAA Class 6A state title in 2022 but time.
That time bomb imploded Saturday night.
St. Joseph’s Prep (12-1) 14 21 0 7-42
Harrisburg (11-3) 0 0 0 7-7
SJP – Samaj Jones 65 run (Skyler Sholder kick), 11:41
SJP – Khaseem Phillips 10 pass from Jones (Sholder kick), 1:37
SJP – Brandon Rehmann 46 pass from Jones (Sholder kick), 11:05
SJP – Elijah Jones 57 pass from Samaj Jones (Sholder kick), 5:56
SJP – Phillips 3 run (Sholder kick), 2:11
SJP – Owen Garwood 16 pass from Samaj Jones (Sholder kick), 10:49
H – Kyle Williams 66 pass from Shawn Lee Jr. (Messi Deounodji), 4:28
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been covering high school football since 1992 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter @JSantoliquito. Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball.
Follow EasternPAFootball.com on Twitter @EPAFootball
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