The St. Augustine Prep football team certainly had its chances early.
Down just 7-0 against St. Peter’s Prep in the NJSIAA Non-Public IV semifinals, the Hermits drove into the red zone two times before the half. But both times the Hermits came up empty handed, with one drive resulting in an interception and the other ending with a missed field goal.
The missed opportunities, along with a 20-point third quarter by the Marauders, extinguished any hopes for a Hermits state championship on Friday, as No. 6 St. Augustine fell to No. 3 St. Peter’s, 34-0. St. Peter’s improved to 10-1 and will play the winner of No. 1 Paramus Catholic and No. 4 Don Bosco in the state championship game. The Hermits fell to 8-2.
“We’re a half away,” Hermits coach Mark Reardon said of his program. “Just like we were against (St. Joseph Hammonton). We were a half away. Here, we’re a half away. And we’re going to get that half back in the off season.”
Neither team started the game quick out of the gate. Despite exciting trick plays by both teams — a recovered onside kick by St. Peter’s and a fake-punt, fourth-down conversion by St. Augustine — the game was scoreless after one quarter.
St. Peter’s broke the scoreless tie early in the second quarter as quarterback Brandon Wimbush hit Corey Caddle on a hook pass that Caddle took into the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown. It would be the first of two touchdowns the duo connected on. Wimbush finished 7-for-12 with 178 yards and two touchdowns. Caddle led all receivers with four catches for 130 yards and the two scores.
On the ensuing drive, the St. Augustine offense methodically took the ball from its own 30 to the St. Peter’s 14-yard line midway through the second quarter. However, Hermits quarterback Jose Tabora was picked off by Caddle to end the drive.
“I underthrew the ball a little bit,” Tabora said. “It was a costly mistake, but you can’t blame a game on one mistake. You just keep playing. They were just the better team tonight.”
After a stop by the defense and a 46-yard run by Lamont Harris put the ball on the St. Peter’s 16, the offense had a chance to score with less than a minute before the half. But the drive stalled, forcing a 36-yard field goal attempt by Kyle Snow, which he would miss.
On offense, Tabora finished 16-for-28 with 103 passing yards and the interception. Harris rushed for 126 yards on 28 carries.
The third quarter proved to be the difference in the game. Jonathan Hilliman took the first play from scrimmage in the second half 54 yards for a touchdown, and the Marauders never looked back. Hilliman found the end zone again in the quarter, this time from five yards out, to make it 19-0. With 3:39 left in the third, Wimbush connected with Caddle for a 92-yard touchdown pass that made it 27-0 to put the game away.
“In the third quarter, they came out ready to play and we came out flat,” Tabora said. “To win against a team like this, you have to play 100 percent all four quarters.”
All is not lost though for the Hermits. While Reardon said there are no moral victories, he said that making it this far was valuable experience for the young squad.
“When you’re trying to build something, it’s going to take a little time,” Reardon said. “We’re really not that far away.”
St. Augustine will finish its season on Thanksgiving, as it hosts 7-2 Cedar Creek.