No. 3 Tower Hill (Wilmington) scored two late goals to send the title game into overtime for the first time in its history, and then following a scoreless first overtime, sophomore Michael Pettit found the back of the net in the second extra period to give the Hillers a 5-4 upset win over top-seeded Salesianum.
The teams were tied 1-1 at the half and then Sallies erupted for three third-quarter goals to take a 4-1 lead heading into the fourth quarter. And it was then that the Hillers began their comeback.
"This whole year, we haven’t been a runaway team," Tower Hill senior Ripley Nielsen told The News Journal. "We grind it out. We just kept our composure and we were patient."
Tower Hill used a patient, methodical offensive strategy, along with a tenacious defensive effort, to mount its comeback. Pettit opened up the fourth-quarter scoring for Tower Hill at the 8:34 mark off a nice assist from senior midfielder Blaise Taylor. Junior attack Chase Robino then scored to get the Hillers within one with 1:38 left in regulation.
Then, following an offsides penalty against Sallies, senior midfielder Jake Graham tied the game with 12 seconds to play to send the game into sudden-death overtime. Tower Hill had the two best scoring chances in the first overtime period, but Sallies goalkeeper Dan Rogers made a big save to thwart one shot and Tower Hill was called for being in the crease on the second.
Then, following a timeout less than a minute into the second overtime, Robino saw Pettit streaking to the goal and hit him with a perfect pass, and the Hillers’ victory celebration began.
"I am so excited that we beat Salesianum and avenged last year's loss in the state championship game (13-4) and a loss during the regular season (11-7)," coach Brad duPont said as his team celebrated around him. "With only 100 boys in the entire high school, we have struggled to match the intensity of Salesianum's teams. This was not the case Saturday as we played to win, not to avoid losing."
Salesianum, which defeated Tower Hill 11-7 during the regular season, was led by Andrew Blundin’s two goals, with Dillon Walker and Andrew Salvitti scoring one each. But it was the Hillers’ defense, which shut out the Sals for the last 18:47 of the game, that in the end made the difference.
"Our defense played an outstanding game and allowed the offense to win the game by scoring only five goals," duPont added. "I am proud of our team and so happy for the seniors who have worked so hard this season."
Those seniors include 11 players who have not only helped take the Tower Hill program to a new level, but according to their coach, will leave behind a work ethic for the underclassmen to emulate in the future.
"My experience has convinced me that a team's success in the postseason reflects the quality of its senior leadership," duPont said with pride. "The seniors on this team demonstrated superior intensity, focus, and leadership."
St. Mark’s wins 11th baseball crown: Often the best way to win a big game is to do it with experienced players. And that’s exactly what St. Mark's (Wilmington) did when it defeated DuPont (Wilmington), 5-1 on Tuesday night for its second consecutive and state-record 11th overall baseball title.
The Spartans started nine seniors, including Taylor Mahoney, who returned to the sport’s grandest stage at Frawley Stadium and pitched a gem to complete his perfect season on the mound (7-0). The seasoned southpaw, who also earned the win in last year’s title game, allowed just six hits while striking out seven.
"It definitely helped me to relax knowing that I had been part of it last year," Mahoney told The News Journal. "I wasn’t as nervous as I was last year going into the game."
Offensively, St. Mark’s used a complete team effort, scattering nine hits while scoring one run in each inning from the second inning on. Nine different Spartans had an RBI or a run scored. Only Mike Medori had one of each.
"We hit the ball when we had to and Taylor pitched a great game," St. Mark’s coach Matt Smith told The News Journal. Top-seeded St. Mark’s (20-2), which avenged an earlier loss to A.I., won its sixth title in the last eight years.
Jon Buzby is the sports columnist for the Newark Post, a freelance writer, and occasional color commentator for the 1290 AM The Ticket High School Football Game of the Week. You can reach him at