Story Completed By NJSR Staff
Times are changing at Mater Dei in Middletown. For a school that was nearly closed just a year and a half ago, the community can now spend the next couple of weeks celebrating. Athletic Director Dennis Tobin made a big time investment by rolling the dice on a major hire in the offseason, bringing in the highly respected Dino Mangiero from Poly Prep School in NY. Mangiero came with a tremendous resume and previous experience playing in the NFL.
The Seraphs were also able to acquire one of the best quarterbacks in the Shore Conference with the transfer of George “LC” Pearson. Pearson already had a championship ring from his time at Matawan as a freshman. The signal caller not only brought a big arm to get the ball down the field, he also came with plenty of leadership experience.
Everyone within the Seraphs community knew both these acquisitions were going to make Mater Dei a serious contender. People would now have to respect the Mater Dei name and know that if the Seraphs were coming to town, you would be in for a tough one!
Well, in the first weekend of December, both acquisitions proved to be extremely beneficial as the Seraphs can happily call themselves champions for the first time in school history. The perfect season is now complete!
A miracle play by Eddie Lewis at the end of the game will go down as the run that made everyone’s dreams come true. A 26-20 victory over Holy Spirit clinches the Non Public Group II Championship. This is a monumental accomplishment for a football program that has not gotten the respect that they have truly deserved.
Pearson turned in a championship level performance, completing 11 of 19 passes for 214 yards and 3 touchdown passes. No doubt, Pearson has made it a habit of giving his best effort with state titles on the line. He’s thrown 8 total touchdown passes in both of his state final appearances.
Defensively, the Seraphs were also able to overcome a huge performance from Holy Spirit running back Reggie Jean-Charles. Charles piled up 156 yards on 30 carries and scored 2 touchdowns, but it just wasn’t enough to get the Spartans that elusive championship!
“I’m just so happy for these kids. They came in, put the work in from day one. We challenged every single one of them from the start. We knew that if they responded, we would have a great chance at having a special season. Well, they not only bought in, but gave us a championship effort over and over again. This is exactly how we were able to finish the game today. Even at the end when we needed a big play, they were able to execute and get the job done. This is just a great group of kids that would accept nothing less than victory”, added Mater Dei Prep head coach Dino Mangiero.
It did not take long for Mater Dei to get on the board in the first quarter. Junior QB George Pearson came out and did what he does best, throw the football! It took just three minutes before Pearson hit Eddie Lewis with a 67 yard strike to take a 7-0 lead. Mater Dei came out with an aggressive mindset, limiting their opposition to just 6 points in the first half.
Holy Spirit’s only score through the first 24 minutes came on a Jean-Charles 7 yard TD run. The Spartans attempted the two-point conversion, but a holding call nullified the play. This would keep the score at 13-6. Mater Dei continued to keep the pressure on as Holy Spirit started to move the ball more efficiently.
Throughout the regular season, both Marvin Pierre and Eddie Lewis were big scoring threats for the Seraphs. With Lewis scoring the opening TD, it was then Pierre who gave the small school from Middletown a 20-6 halftime lead.
Holy Spirit would move the ball efficiently in the second half. Jean-Charles took a 34 yard run down to the eight-yard line for a Spartans 1st and goal. He would eventually punch the ball in for a Holy Spirit TD that would cut the Mater Dei lead to 20-13. For the first time all season, it appeared that Mater Dei would be battle tested.
One of the biggest differences was Holy Spirit’s ability to establish the ground game while Mater Dei accumulated just 16 yards through the first three quarters. But with a quarterback like Pearson, the Seraphs were able to attack the Spartans through the air.
Mater Dei’s defense would dig deep and come up with a big stop late in the third. With Holy Spirit driving to the Seraphs 30 yard line, Mater Dei was able to shut down the Spartans on 4th and 5. Russell Ferrisi had the initial contact on the play that would stall a key drive.
But Holy Spirit responded again and would not go away. The Spartans would tie the game with 6:14 left in the fourth quarter. James Marcheski picked up a fumble at the 36-yard line and ran it back for the Spartans TD. After trailing 20-6, Holy Spirit scored 14 straight points to tie the game.
After getting back some big time momentum, a loose ball on the following kickoff would lead to another Spartans possession. Malachi Valentine came up with the recovery. The South Jersey team clearly had Mater Dei on their heels. They would immediately drive down to the 22, but once again, the Seraph’s defense took care of business and would not allow them to take advantage of the extra possession.
Mater Dei would now have an opportunity to go 88 yards in under five minutes. Holy Spirit, however, would return the favor and come up with a huge stop of their own.
On the Seraph’s following possession, Eddie Lewis would take the ball from the 27-yard line to the Holy Spirit 49. Much as Lewis had done all year, this was another fantastic punt return. Pearson, however, would be picked off by Ahmad Brown of Holy Spirit and they would get the ball back with 1:15 to play in the game.
But once again the Seraphs defense would not let them down. The Spartans had a chance to win the game, but could not do anything in return. After getting stopped again, it would appear that the final was headed to overtime.
This was very exciting, and quite a change for a bracket that has generally ended in blowout games. The fans that filed into Kean University were really getting a treat!
In the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles won a last minute game against the New York Giants back in 2010 that has historically been known as the Miracle of the Meadowlands Part II. Well, the Seraphs would give fans an ending that will always be known as the Miracle At Kean University!
With just seconds left, and one final play to avoid sending the game to overtime, the Seraphs dialed up one for the ages that Shore Conference fans will be discussing for a long long time! George “LC” Pearson passed the ball to Kyle Devaney. Devaney then shocked the Holy Spirit defense by lateraling the ball to Eddie Lewis. Lewis would use his blazing speed to dash to the end zone! It was all over, and Lewis had done the impossible and completed the storybook season. Right after the play was over, I think it took Lewis a few seconds to realize what had just happened!!
“I think it took a minute or so to finally sink in. This kind of stuff just doesn’t happen around here. To not only go 12-0, but to win our first ever championship in this way, there is just nothing better in the world. This is one of the greatest nights of my life. They can never take this one away”, added Eddie Lewis.
Running Back and Linebacker Marvin Pierre could hardly contain his excitement after the win. Pierre has been an unbelievable force on both sides of the ball all season long.
“We have worked so hard for this and it is truly amazing! So many nights we have spent working and the effort has finally paid off”.
It was also an amazing moment for Quarterback George Pearson; who now has two championship rings. He is one of only a few players who have had the honor to win championships with two different teams.
Overall, this was a win that has not only put the football program back on the map, but has also added to the multiple accomplishments that this school has achieved over the past year.
After winning a state championship in football and a Shore Conference title in boys basketball, Mater Dei athletics has really made a name for themselves around the state.
“I feel like a champion, for football and basketball,” Pierre said. When asked if he was worried when the game was so close in the second half, Pierre responded by saying, “No I was not worried at all. We worked way too hard all season to be worried about anything. We knew we could ultimately walk out with the win,” Pierre said.
This victory will set the tone for a Mater Dei program that will continue to establish itself as a powerhouse in the Shore Conference. Coach Dino Mangiero has brought a real vision that has already produced positive results in just one season. There are lots of future athletes who will want to call Mater Dei their home for the next four years!
MD – Eddie Lewis – 67 yard pass from George Pearson. (Roan Maxwell kick)
MD – Izaiah Henderson – 18 yard pass from George pearson (Roan Maxwell kick)
HS – Reggie Jean-Charles – 8 yard run. (kick failed)
MD – Marvin Pierre – 26 yard pass from George Pearson. (Roan Maxwell kick)
HS – Reggie Jean-Charles – 11 yard run. (Cade Antonucci kick)
HS – James Marcheski – 35 yard fumble return. (Cade Antonucci kick)
MD – Eddie Lewis – 35 yard run off of lateral from Kyle Devaney. (kick failed).
Passing: MD – Pearson 11-19-1-214. HS – Costabile 5-10-0-22.
Rushing: MD – Saunders 8-9, Pierre 5-15, Lewis 1-35. HS – Jean-Charles 30-156, Figueroa 11-29.
Receiving: MD – Devaney 4-45, Pierre 3-53, Lewis 2-75, Henderson 2-26. HS – Liepe 3-12, Gerena 1-10.
Records: Mater Dei Prep (12-0), Holy Spirit (9-3).
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