St. Edward clinches second straight conference crown
All in one night, a conference championship and state playoff bid was on the line.
In a crowded end zone, Joe Sacco stepped into the direction of the flying football, snaring it for a St. Edward touchdown.
Except the pass was not intended for him.
But there was enough scoring, a 42-0 Green Wave win over Westmont. More importantly, St. Edward clinched the Metro Suburban Red Conference championship (5-0 record) for the second straight season with an automatic bid to the state playoffs in two weeks.
Sacco admitted to being surprised after his TD catch for a 22-0 lead.
"Then they were telling me it was for (teammate) Zeke Rolando but I just saw it and had to go for it," he said.
Later on another TD pass (16 yards), Sacco ran under a lofty Anthony Holte pass with a defender draped over him.
"I tried to direct Zeke to go deep cause I saw his guy was coming at me," said quarterback Holte, who ran to the outside before releasing the pass. "That (pass) was an accident. I was trying to go Zeke, and Sacco took it out of his hands."
Sacco, who had three touchdowns, grabbed a punt and broke to the sideline, 88 yards for the 42-0 lead and running clock at the 5:05 third quarter mark.
"Just great blocks for me from Clem (McCullough) and Luke Brier, just opened it up for me, the sideline was just there for me," Sacco said.
After a sluggish first unfulfilling possession on run plays, the Green Wave switched to a four-touchdown passing attack as Holte threw for 265 yards on 15 of 22 throws, all except one for first downs. Liam Pomeroy, who had a 13-yard TD grab, caught all six passes thrown to him by quarterback Anthony Holte, including big plays of 40 yards twice and a 26-yarder.
"They were playing off me the whole game," Pomeroy said. "I just kept hitting them with double moves over the top."
While Westmont deployed only three defensive linemen, the routes were still open despite eight Sentinels in the secondary. Holte only left the pocket a few times, the benefactor of strong O-line blocking protection.
"I had all night in the pocket," Holte said. "My line was just on fire tonight."
St. Edward scored on four consecutive plays before halftime for a 29-0 lead.
Holte was connecting with Rolando, who had 7 receptions for 85 yards and 2 touchdowns. At 6-foot-2 and a high vertical leap with long arms, Rolando scored on 11 and 4 yards.
"I feel my strong point is up high," Rolando said. "The first one we were just trying to pick the linebacker off, so I was dragging across the field, just wide open in the end zone. They (Westmont) were playing off a lot."
On both sides of the line, Luke Brier was part of a mob of tacklers for the Green Wave.
"We're all doing our jobs perfectly," said Brier, who added the team has been practicing their footwork. "Our communication on the line was probably the best all year. We call out, if we're pulling out, we call on the trap man."
Alex Walser had eight tackles with Brier, who pounced on an onside kick that set up a touchdown later, notching five. For one Westmont drive, the Green Wave's Anthony Kirkwood made two stops in a row for nine yards of losses.
"We're usually pretty good at all getting in the backfield together and making tackles as a team," said Walser. "We studied their film pretty thoroughly and really knew what they were doing."
St. Edward coach Mike Rolando was concerned about the 2-5 Sentinels.
"They are well-coached, a tough team that plays hard, and execute well," he said. "Elmwood Park was a close game (13-0 loss) and they just beat Ridgewood."
On the decision to balance the offensive attack, passing 22 times of the 43 plays, Rolando said there were reasons for the switch.
"I think we had some advantage athletically in their defensive backfield," said Rolando. "We didn't throw at all last week, so our pass game was a little rusty, so we wanted to shake the rust off. We need to be two-dimensional. They were giving us a lot of space on the pass game.
"Anthony (Holte) is much more confident, he's much more calm, he's much more relaxed in the pocket. The way he throws that ball now, he knows where his receivers are going to be and has a great group of receivers."