The next challenge that Joe DuMond backs away from may be his first.
Don’t hold your breath.
Whether battling on the defensive line or blocking as a tight end, the St. Joseph’s Preparatory School sophomore really couldn’t care less about his opponent’s ability or size.
“There’s always going to be people bigger than you or more talented than you,” DuMond said. “Whatever the case, you can’t use that as an excuse, because you have a job to do and everyone is depending on you to do it.”
On Sunday night at a freezing cold Hersheypark Stadium, DuMond was one of numerous reasons why the Prep emerged as the 2013 PIAA Class AAAA state champions. Indeed, the Hawks’ 35-10 victory over previously undefeated Pittsburgh Central Catholic contained vintage performances from countless contributors.
(See related story: Archbishop Wood puts it in gear for 2nd half, emerges with Class AAA state title)
But what arguably clinched the Prep’s first-ever state title was DuMond’s 14-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter that increased the Hawks’ lead to 21-10 and appeared to derail PCC’s characteristic swagger.
And although DuMond’s teammates were obviously thrilled to have been provided some breathing room, their enthusiastic reaction in the end zone suggested something much more, and for good reason.
After all, how many players wait until the state championship to score their first touchdown of the season — and on only their fourth-ever catch?
“It happened so fast,” said DuMond, who made the most of a rare opportunity last year when he was named the Prep’s starting nose guard despite only being a freshman. “We had practiced the play a lot but never tried it in a game. I caught the ball and when I looked around, I saw a lot of green in front of me. I followed the early blocks (by junior Jon Daniel Runyan and sophomore Ed Mooney) and then our receivers picked up the last couple of guys trying to get to me, and I was able to get in there and score. It was pretty cool.”
Although DuMond had scored a touchdown after an interception last year, and had constructed many fine memories as a standout athlete at South Philadelphia’s Our Lady of Mount Carmel Grade School, this was easily his most shining moment.
“The whole thing was really incredible,” DuMond said. “The most important part was that we had scored a big touchdown and had a bigger lead. The other part was that we were all surprised that I was the one that scored the touchdown.”
By the time it was over, the Hawks (12-3) would reach the promised land five times. It began with senior quarterback Chris Martin finding senior Vince Moffett for a 27-yard scoring strike in the first quarter. But Central Catholic (15-1), which entered the game having outscored its opponents by a staggering 657-82, responded with 10 straight points and led, 10-7, at intermission.
While Prep fans huddled together in the stands drinking overpriced hot chocolate and did their best to ignore the frigid 10-degree temperature, the Hawk players couldn’t wait to exit the locker room.
“We just needed to make something happen,” Martin said.
And make something happen they did. On the Prep’s first play of the third quarter, Martin tossed an innocent looking pass to junior John Reid. Incredibly, Reid deked past two would-be tacklers and raced 59 yards down the left sideline for a go-ahead touchdown.
Undaunted, Central Catholic continued to rely on its vaunted running game, but it was to no avail. A torrid performance by the Prep’s aggressive defensive line and swarming linebackers forced PCC into several uncomfortable situations on second and third down. When forced to pass, the Prep’s secondary refused to buckle.
In the meantime, the Hawks just kept scoring.
First came the DuMond touchdown to make it 21-10. A few minutes later, the Hawks scored again when freshman D’Andre Swift raced 35 yards virtually untouched. And on their next possession, Moffett scored on a 16-yard run.
What seemed like a certain nailbiter had turned into a rout.
“They just kept playing hard one series at a time,” said Prep coach Gabe Infante. “It was really something to see. They didn’t take any plays off. It’s a credit to them. They were just amazing. I couldn’t be more proud of how they played.”
Looking more fluid than he has at any point since suffering a knee injury in the Catholic League championship win over La Salle a month ago, Martin (13 for 21 for 195 yards three touchdowns) was stellar.
Defensively, senior Ryan McNulty (10 tackles), Moffett (nine tackles, forced fumble), junior Tom Johnson (seven tackles), junior Jake Strain (two sacks, two tackles for lost yardage, fumble recovery), and the aforementioned Runyan (two sacks, forced fumble, constant pressure) made life miserable for Pittsburgh Central Catholic.
“You could tell that as the game went on, they were getting worn out,” DuMond said. “They weren’t used to trailing and it threw them off their game. They didn’t know what to do.
“On the other hand, we were losing (at halftime) but weren’t panicking at all. We’ve been in situations like that many times. That helped us a lot. We were prepared for anything. Nothing was bothering us.”
In the first week of January, Prep’s players are reportedly scheduled to meet for informal weight training.
“Next year has already begun,” DuMond said.
Just the ramblings of a newly crowned state champion.
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.