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Quick hits: Holy Spirit vs. DePaul, Non-Public Group II championship

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Non-Public Group II Championship DePaul Catholic 35, Holy Spirit 16 Score at halftime: DePaul 19, Holy Spirit 0 Records: DePaul Catholic 10-2, Holy Spirit 11-1 Big and mean: In most games this season, the Holy Spirit Spartans were the biggest and meanest on the field. On Sunday, it was the Spartans from DePaul who dwarfed Holy Spirit. Their running backs were big and fast and the defensive line featured Courtel Jenkins, a 6-foot-3 behemoth who was listed at 315 pounds but looked about 330. And linebacker Stephen Speidel (5-9, 230) clogged the middle and took away one of Holy Spirit’s best threats – quarterback T.J. Anderson’s option run up the middle. Talented Holy Spirit quarterback T.J. Anderson had little to no running room up the middle against a powerful DePaul Catholic defense in Sunday's Non-Public Group II championship game. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) Talented Holy Spirit quarterback T.J. Anderson had little to no running room up the middle against a powerful DePaul Catholic defense in Sunday’s Non-Public Group II championship game. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) Speed to burn: Holy Spirit’s offense is predicated on Anderson and Dandre Davis softening up the middle and then using the option to get to the edges with speedy tailbacks A.J. Dawson and Taalib Gerald. Only this time, there were no edges. DePaul’s linebackers and secondary were just as fast as Holy Spirit’s backs and repeatedly forced them out of bounds before they could get the edge and cut upfield. Dual threat: DePaul quarterback Zach Bednarczyk proved to be more than the Holy Spirit defense could handle for most of the game. He rushed 10 times for 118 yards, including a nifty play-action fake where he took off around the left side and scored untouched to make it 35-8 with 4:08 left in the game. He also was effective in his limited passing, completing 8-of-11 for 105 yards. He set up the first score by completing a third-down pass to Hasis Dubois down to the Holy Spirit 8-yard line, setting up a 4-yard TD run by Speidel. Bednarczyk set up the second score with a shovel pass that set up first-and-goal at the 3. And the play of the day came after Holy Spirit had cut the deficit to 22-8 on a touchdown run by Franco Rifici. On DePaul’s next drive and facing a third-and-17, Bednarczyk lofted a pass down the right sideline. Dawson tipped the ball and expected it to land harmlessly on the turf. But Matt Greff came out of nowhere to make a circus catch, getting a foot down Senior defensive back Franco Rifici made the hit of the day in Sunday's game, crushing a DePaul special teams player with a block on a kickoff return. Senior defensive back Franco Rifici made the hit of the day in Sunday’s game, crushing a DePaul special teams player with a block on a kickoff return. inbounds and keeping the drive alive. On the next play, Kareem Walker broke a tackle in the backfield and galloped seven yards into the end zone to make it 28-8 and seal the win. Feisty Franco: Holy Spirit senior Franco Rifici wasn’t about to go quietly even as a fourth straight state title was slipping away. He had several nice kickoff returns, scored Spirit’s first touchdown, and gave Spartans fans something to cheer about late in the game when he absolutely leveled a DePaul player on a Holy Spirit kick return. Not bad for a guy who is 5-foot-5. Looks can be deceiving: On paper it looked as though Holy Spirit had the advantage. They came into the game sporting a perfect 11-0 record, had ripped through most of their schedule, and were chasing their fourth straight sectional championship. DePaul came in with a pair of losses, but they weren’t just any old losses. They lost to Paramus Catholic and St. Joseph-Montvale, which are two of the best teams not only in New Jersey, but in the entire country. They had also beaten powerful teams such as Don Bosco and Bergen Catholic. Plenty to be proud of: For Holy Spirit’s seniors, ending their careers with a loss wasn’t something they expected. But a group that included such outstanding players as Rifici, Anderson, Joe Dibuonaventura, Tyler Flynn, Ray Ellis, Dennis and others, there is nothing to hang their heads about. In the last four seasons Holy Spirit has gone 39-8 and won three state championships. Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays

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