Kareem Walker and Nasir Hooker totaled 319 yards on the ground, as the DePaul Spartans wore down the undefeated Saint John Vianney Lancers on their way to a 40-17 State Sectional win at Rutgers.
The Lancers actually scored first, putting three points on the board after Khalil Haskins hauled in a 42 yard pass on the first play of the game.
The Spartans would threaten to answer with a touchdown, but a fumble at the nine yard line slammed the door on their first drive. However, the Lancers gave it right back as Haskins fumbled on a crossing route.
Quayshon Alexander recovered it for DePaul, and they quickly put six points on the board. Kareem Walker scored his first touchdown of the day to give the Spartans a 6-3 lead, as they missed the extra point.
The Lancers would march down the field on the next possession, but end another drive with a turnover. Brown was tackled short of the line to gain on a fourth down keeper, as DePaul took over to start the second quarter.
Leading 6-3, Shelton Applewhite would drive his Spartans calmly into the end zone, throwing a fourth-down touchdown pass to Terrell Vassel – extending the lead to 13-3.
It would take just three plays for SJV to respond, as Michael Stapert, Haskins and Marcque Ellington caught consecutive passes from Brown – the latter to Ellington being a touchdown.
Starting from the thirty, Walker ripped off a 20 yard run to start the next DePaul drive. SJV would later have a chance to get off the field, as Calvin Beaty appeared to make a big tackle on third down.
However, DePaul lined up to go for it, and Applewhite threw it out of the back of the end zone. Defensive pass interference was called against the Lancers though, and DePaul got another chance on fourth and short.
A false start made it a longer attempt, but Hasise Dubois still found the end zone on a pass from Applewhite – making the score 20-10 DePaul.
Vinny DePalma came up with a huge sack for the Spartans on the next drive, as SJV was forced to punt.
Needing a turnover, Jeff Sheard forced Applewhite to fumble on a sack on the next possession, and the Lancers took over at the 48. With a short field just before halftime, Stapert snagged a terrific one-handed catch to set up a field goal attempt.
The kick was no good, and DePaul held their ten point lead at the half – 20-10. The Lancers rushed for just one yard in the half, as DePaul totaled 146 on the ground. The Spartans would receive the second half kickoff, but SJV got a much needed three and out.
Anthony Brown would get his team back in the game on the ensuing drive, as Haskins set up a first and goal with a slant pattern reception – on a pass that should have been intercepted.
One play later, Brown took it himself across the goal line, cutting the lead to 20-17.
The Vianney defense once again forced a punt, as Chukwuneke was active all over the field, and Sheard’s second sack of the game on third down brought the ball back to Brown.
Scott Lavelle would blow up a screen pass for DePaul, as they forced another punt. Reaching into his bag of tricks, Spartans head coach John McKenna had running back Kareem Hooker throw a halfback pass to a wide open Vassel.
Walker finished off the drive with his second touchdown of the day, and the lead was back up to ten. DePaul won the time of possession battle in this game by a final margin of 33:57 to 14:03.
After forcing another three and out, Hooker sealed the deal with a burst of speed up the middle on his way to a 36 yard TD. With a 34-17 lead, Nysere Nunn picked off Brown in the end zone.
DePaul methodically went eighty yards to officially seal the deal with a two-yard Hooker TD. Their defense added an exclamation mark, recovering a fumble on the first play of the next drive.
Victory formation was all that stood between the Spartans and a title, as they ended the game with a 40-17 win. The Lancers managed just five first downs in the second half of this game.
From the sidelines, Ryan Wydra caught up with both running backs – Kareem Walker and Nasir Hooker.
Still plenty of football left to go today at Rutgers, and I have all the games on Twitter. First, listen to Jim Rosa and the Spartans Head Coach – John McKenna.