EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - A critical sequence in the final two minutes of the opening quarter sent the Pope John High School varsity football team spiraling into a downward stumble from which the team could not recover.
St. Joseph of Montvale scored two touchdowns in a span of 16 seconds late in the first quarter to open a 21-point lead and coasted home with a 62-14 victory over the Sparta team in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 3 championship game at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands on Saturday afternoon.
Pope John, after falling behind, 7-0, in the opening minutes of the game, intercepted a pass in the end zone to snuff out another St. Joseph drive. But, with 1:48 left in the first quarter, Spencer Aukamp rolled to his right and found Austin Barber in the middle of the end zone for a 15-yard TD pass. Pope John then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and, one play later, Aukamp rolled out on a waggle left and connected with Quai Jefferson in the left corner of the end zone with 1:32 left in the quarter for a 26-yard TD pass and a 21-0 lead.
Noah Brown scored on a 1-yard TD run for Pope John in the second quarter, and Brown was on the receiving end of a pass from Sonny Abramson that covered 75 yards for Pope John's other touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Pope John finished its season 10-2, with its other loss coming against Delbarton on Nov. 9. Pope John then defeated Delbarton two weeks later in the playoff semifinals.