By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — Nothing scares D’Andre Swift. Especially on a football field. So when time was winding down and St. Joseph’s Prep was struggling, Swift, the Hawks’ explosive senior tailback, never feared he was playing in his last high school game.
But he knew it was time to take over, as the Hawks were hit with a deluge of penalties and mistakes against North Penn in the PIAA 6A state semifinals before a packed, freezing crowd at Northeast High School on Saturday night.
That’s when the 5-foot-10, 210-pound Swift found that other gear only special players have.
The Georgia-bound Swift ripped through North Penn for a game-high 266 yards and 4 touchdowns on 32 carries in the Hawks’ 35-25 victory, sending them to the state title for the third time in the last four years.
St. Joe’s Prep will face Pittsburgh Central Catholic next Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium in the 6A state title game. North Penn saw a very successful season end with a 14-1 record.
Swift scored three of his four touchdowns in the fourth quarter, offsetting Prep’s 12 penalties for 100 yards. And entering the fourth quarter, Prep trailed, 17-14, and had done nothing offensively in the third quarter.
“The first half, nothing was really going our way and we had to take on a different attitude in the second half,” said Swift, who’s rushed for 584 yards in his last two games and reached a career milestone of rushing for over 4,000 yards in his stellar career at Prep. “It was frustrating, though. We have to stop killing ourselves. We never should have put never put ourselves in that predicament in the first place.
“North Penn played a great game. I just felt that I had to take over. I don’t play with fear. I never with play with fear. I’m never afraid of no man, or anything like that. There was no fear. We were going to win this game. I take matters into my own hands. Fear never went through my mind.”
Everyone else, however, might have been a little nervous on the Prep side entering the fourth quarter.
It’s when Swift took control. He scored on touchdown runs of 27, 12 and 1 yard in the fourth quarter, while the Knights couldn’t answer.
“North Penn is a great football team,” Prep coach Gabe Infante said. “North Penn is well coached, and schematically, they did some things very well. They played very hard and we expected to be in a 15-round fight. We knew it would come down to some big plays at the end.
“My biggest fear in big games like this is when your best player doesn’t get a chance to do what he needs to do. D’Andre had to have the ball. You can’t lose with No. 7 being out there. D’Andre secured himself as one of the all-time greatest players in the area.”
Prep took a 14-7 lead into halftime. The Hawks scored on their second possession, though the drive was stymied by penalties. Prep had two flags that wiped out 109 yards in gains, one a 59-yard screen that put the ball at the North Penn 8, and the other erased a 50-yard Swift touchdown.
Still, the Hawks’ Swift managed to bolt through the North Penn defense for a 29-yard touchdown with 3:00 left in the first quarter.
The Knights answered back early in the second quarter. The big play was junior Anthony Andrews’ 26-yard run. That set up quarterback Reece Udinski’s 14-yard TD strike to West Virginia-bound Ricky Johns with 10:46 left in the half. But Prep’s Terrence Greene electrified the freezing crowd with an 81-yard touchdown return on the ensuing kickoff.
Neither team helped themselves, though.
Prep was flagged eight times for 70 yards in the first half. The very accurate Udinski, one of the better quarterbacks in the area, was intercepted twice by Prep senior Richard Carr, once in the end zone.