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Hill School beats Lawrenceville for first time since 2009

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POTTSTOWN >> Walking off Dell Field for the last time this fall, Jeff Hollway offered a poignant “parting shot.”

“I almost hate to leave here,” The Hill School’s head coach said Saturday afternoon, at the conclusion of another memorable game in the long-running and spirited gridiron rivalry between the Blues and Lawrenceville School.

Hollway’s comment, coupled with the 100th Anniversary Cup awarded to the game’s winning team each year, evidenced what had transpired on the field. The Hill ended almost a decade of residence on the losing side of game scores, rallying for a 33-23 victory over the Larries in their 2018 finale. It complemented the big-game atmosphere present in the home team’s stands and on the Hill campus’ surrounding grounds and parking lots … a joyous conclusion to a trying campaign for the Blues.

The Hill School’s Maurice Mazzccua rushes deep into Lawrenceville territory in the third quarter. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

Fueled by the 1-2 running punch of Gernard Finney and Maurice Mazzccua, the Hill finished up a 2-7 campaign with back-to-back wins. It also closed out the Mid-Atlantic Prep League’s season 2-3, ahead of the Larries (1-8).

“We talked about not playing for ourselves,” Hollway said, “but for the guys who played here before. It’s a special place at the Hill, with its alumni.”

After scoring on its first possession of the game, the Hill found itself trailing Lawrenceville at the half, 16-15. It went ahead 20-15 inside the final minute of the third quarter, only to see the Larries get the deficit down to three (26-23) with about two minutes left.

Hill School quarterback Javon Clements runs in for a touchdown in the third quarter against Lawrenceville. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

But Mazzccua took the steam out of the visitors’ momentum machine, running for a score 14 seconds later. A defensive stop got the Blues the ball back with less than a minute to go, and they ran out the clock for their first series victory since 2009.

“This is unbelievable,” Hollway said. “It speaks to the resilience of the kids, after winning one game in the first eight weeks.”

While the Hill players, their classmates and fan base whooped it up on the field, a much more somber mood swept over Lawrenceville. Head coach Harry Flaherty praised his charges for the effort they put out, “maybe not always playing well, but playing hard.”

“This is a pretty special rivalry,” Flaherty said. “We don’t have a playoff, but ending the season with a game like this … I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Finney, whose role in the Hill’s ground game is working outside, went around his left end for a six-yard score little more than three minutes in. He later teamed up with quarterback Javon Clements (6-for-14, 77 yards) on a 21-yard passing TD with 8:14 left in the game.

The Hill School’s Gernard Finney (4) reaches for the goal line on a touchdown reception in the third quarter. (Austin Hertzog – Digital First Media)

“I ran as hard as I could,” the fifth-former, who covered 33 yards on 10 totes, said. “This was the last time we ran with the seniors, and we played our hearts out.”

Mazzccua tore up the turf, ringing up 197 yards on 18 runs. He went long distance twice, running 44 yards around left end 3:34 before the end of the first half and 51 for the insurance score.

“Maurice is special,” Finney said of his post-graduate teammate. “He goes when he wants.”

It offered Clements a satisfactory to his post-grad run with the program. The Bethlehem Catholic product preceded his aerial TD to Finney with a one-yard sprint around his right end.

“In the Lehigh Valley, every game was like this. They’re all big games,” Clements said. “They were all big games.”

Billy Dunn had a pair of short-yardage touchdowns for Lawrenceville, and quarterback Rob Rolfe went 39 yards to score at the 5:53 mark in the second quarter. Kwesi Adu-DiaWuo led the way with 114 rushing yards on 19 carries, and Drew Friedman — he shared time behind center with Rolfe — was 8-for-19 for 37 yards.

But the Hill defense played a big part in keeping the Larries at bay. Josh Flowers intercepted Friedman passes in each half, and the Blues’ sack parade was led by Payton Reid (two) and Naz Higgins (1½), with Syre Gruber (one) and Ahmir Lyles (½) also getting the act.

Higgins also shut the door on the Larries, tackling Adu-Diawuo for a one-yard gain on fourth down to get the Hill the ball back inside the final minute. From there, Clements took a knee twice to run the clock off.

“It was cool to get this win for the seniors,” Clements said.

NOTES >> Gruber made a timely play on special teams. When Lawrenceville tried an onsides kick after what would be its final touchdown, the sixth-former covered the ball at the Hill 49, setting the stage for Mazzccua’s 51-yard run. … Finney admitted to previous familiarity with the big-game atmosphere of the Hill/Lawrenceville series. “I was at Easton, and we had a big rivalry with Phillipsburg (N.J.),” he said. “It’s like the same experience.” … With the season over, Clements will now be looking into college football programs for next year. He mentioned looking at schools like Mount Union and some District 1-AA programs.

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