Harper's 303 yards rushing lead PJ into finals

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    SPARTA-Watching the way the Pope John offense ended the first half, you knew it was only a matter of time before the second-seeded Lions erased a 10-6 deficit to Holy Cross in the Group III Non-Public football semifinals on Saturday. The Lions gained possession with 35 seconds left in the half and no timeouts. But a first-down bomb to Mark Meehan from quarterback Eugene McGuire gained 39 yards and Pope John had a first down at the Lancers' 12-yard line. But with only five seconds left, a pass intended for Nicholas Colson sailed out of the end zone, and Pope John went into the locker room trailing. In the second half, the Lions had all the time in the world, as they outscored third-seeded Holy Cross 28-6 in the final 24 minutes and rolled to a 34-16 triumph to earn a berth in the Dec. 4 state championship game at Rutgers Stadium. Running back Jason Harper had two of his three scores in the second half. The all-time rushing leader in SCIL History was put in prime position after Matt Dowling recovered a fumble at the Holy Cross 23-yard line. Two plays later, Harper busted a 20-yard run for a touchdown and a Pope John lead the team would not surrender. A successful McGuire run on the two-point try gave the Lions a 14-10 advantage. Less than two minutes later, Harper scored on his second touchdown of sixty of more yards, this one a 68-yarder. He had also scored Pope John's lone first half touchdown on a 62-yard burst. Another McGuire two-point conversion extended the lead to 22-10 with 44 seconds left in the period. Harper finished the game 303 yards on 28 carries, and three touchdowns. Meehan added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter for the Lions. The fullback scored on runs of 19 and six as he finished with 98 yards on the ground. Pope John is 11-0 and will play top-seeded St. Joseph's Montvale in the championship game.