MORRISTOWN – Twenty minutes after the final seconds had ticked off the clock on Delbarton’s 34-7 loss to DePaul in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group III semifinal, the Green Wave players and coaches were still at midfield.
Family and friends waited and the student section chanted, “Thank you seniors,” as the Delbarton players and coaches exchanged hugs and handshakes for a season that had started out with two losses, only to go on an eight game winning streak and giving rise to dreams of a possible championship season.
Playing against a team loaded with Division I prospects, Delbarton battled for three quarters but could not stop DePaul from scoring 34 unanswered points. DePaul will face St. John Vianney, which defeated Red Bank Catholic, 49-6, in the Group III final in two weeks.
“This stings, but they made more plays in the second half than we did,” Green Wave head coach Brian Bowers said. “These players have nothing to be ashamed of. They left every bit of Delbarton green blood, sweat and tears on the field. These guys can walk off the field with their heads held high. They gave 100 percent effort and made everyone proud.”
DePaul, which had won two consecutive Non-Public Group II championships, finally broke the game open in the fourth quarter behind the running of Nasir Hooker and Kareem Walker, who combined for 301 yards and three touchdowns.
“Our guys gave us everything, I am extremely proud of how they competed,” Bowers said. They gave us everything and more. These kids really grew up during this season.”
Delbarton struck first, capitalizing on Hooker fumble on a DePaul punt that Kevin Hartley recovered on the Spartan 35-yard line. Cole Kreshpane started the drive with a 9-yard run. Delbarton lost two yards on the next two plays, but senior quarterback Matt Zebrowski kept the drive alive on fourth down, completing a swing pass to Andrew Sanders out of the backfield. Sanders gained 17 yards before being run out of bounds at the 10-yard line. Three plays later, Zebrowski started out rolling to his left, but then came back to his right and with the DePaul defensive line bearing down on him, drilled a 9-yard pass to Hartley in the back of the end zone to complete a seven-play, 35-yard drive and take a 7-0 lead following the PAT.
The catch was Hartley’s 24th reception and fifth touchdown of the season.
DePaul answered right back with a seven-play, 60-yard drive of its own. Hooker made up for his fumble, carrying the ball four plays for 37 yards on the drive, tying the score on a 13-yard sweep. Hooker finished the game with 152 yards and two TD on 18 carries.
Delbarton’s defense kept Hooker and Walker from breaking any long runs in the first half. Green Wave defensive linemen Michael Huston and Will Anderson kept the pressure on DePaul quarterback Shelton Applewhite. Anderson sacked Applewhite late in the second quarter to keep the game tied going into halftime.
Delbarton was unable to get its running game on track against the Spartans. Needing to keep the game close, Delbarton chose to go for a first down on fourth-and-1 only to have Andrew Sanders stopped for a 7-yard loss by DePaul lineman Mike Dwumfour. Delbarton’s defense answered by stopping DePaul on downs to keep the Green Wave only a touchdown behind going into the fourth quarter.
Last week, Walker rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns against Camden Catholic. For three quarters, Delbarton kept the senior in check, but Walker broke loose in the fourth quarter for an 86-yard run to give DePaul a 21-7 lead.
Zebrowski, who had rallied his team from two touchdowns behind earlier in the season against Poly Prep, could not do it again Saturday. Under a constant pass rush, Zebrowski was sacked five times and only able to complete 11 passes for 64 yards. Running back Andrew Sanders was held to only 13 yards on 13 carries.
In the final moments of the game, Zebrowski walked up and down the sideline, thanking and consoling his teammates.
“It’s a tough one, but they are better physically then us,” Zebrowski said. “Physically they were dominant and their pass rush is amazing. We came out and gave 100 percent. We have no regrets I thank all of my teammates for their energy and the effort they gave in practice and the games. Everyone kind of doubted us in the beginning and then we came back and made it a special season. That’s all you can ask for.”
DEPAUL 34, DELBARTON 7
DEL- Kevin Hartley 9 pass from Matt Zebrowski (Carter Massengill kick)
DP-Nasir Hooker 13 run (Ryan Simon kick)
DP-Hooker 24 run (Simon kick)
DP-Kareem Walker 86 run (Simon kick)
DP-Scott LaVella 1 run (kick failed)
DP-Chase Hebron 14 run (Simon kick)
Team records: DePaul 5-6, Delbarton 8-3.