EAST RUTHERFORD – It started with a chant of “RBC … RBC … RBC” emanating from the MetLife Stadium stands behind the Red Bank Catholic bench with just under 10 minutes to play, after the Caseys’ defense made a huge fourth-down stop in DePaul territory.
And finally, the joyous celebration spilled out onto the field after a desperation pass on the final play of the game hit the turf in the end zone, as Red Bank Catholic pulled off a 13-8 victory Friday night in the NJSIAA Non-Public B title game.
A few minutes later, quarterback Alex Brown stood near midfield and reflected on an incredibly emotional playoff run, that began with his inspiring performance against Morris Catholic two weeks ago, throwing six TD passes and rushing for two more a day after his mother, Michelle, lost her 14-year battle with breast cancer.
A week later he ran for two second-half touchdowns in their come-from-behind win over St. Joseph’s Academy.
'I'm praying to her'
On this day, in the final game of his high school career, all Brown did was throw a 33-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring, before running for the game-winning touchdown late in the third quarter.
“I was praying to her,” Brown said. “I pray to her every day. I pray to her before every game, and obviously she is with us on this ride because this is the craziest journey I’ve ever been on.”
It was a fitting end to a truly incredible stretch, with Brown accounting for 12 touchdowns with his arm and legs in the postseason.
“It was very emotional going back to Alex’s mom passing,” said senior tight end/defensive end Alex Bauman, who spearheaded the defensive effort. “We knew we had a guardian angel watching over us in this last ride, so we knew that she was with us though this whole time, and this one was for her.”
And so the Caseys have their third state championship in eight seasons, and the second in three years, the culmination of a roller-coaster ride that began with a flying 8-0 start, including victories over Rumson, a Central Group 3 finalist, Raritan a Central Group 2 finalist, and Wall.
There was the bitter disappointment of their only loss, falling to Donovan Catholic, 28-7 in a driving rainstorm on the last day of the regular season. The Griffins went on to lose to Bergen Catholic in the Non-Public A playoffs.
In the end, it was the Caseys pulling off a statement win against the defending champions and a North Jersey power, emphatically making their case as the best team at the Jersey Shore this fall.
Brown ran for 46 yards, producing several key gains in addition to his one-yard TD run, while throwing for 59 yards on a cold, blustery evening.
“They didn’t know what to do. People didn’t realize I could run this year,” Brown said. “In big moments I knew I had to step up and use my legs.”
It was the latest accomplishment for a Red Bank Catholic program that has been the area's best over the past decade, proving it is capable of playing with the best teams in New Jersey. The Caseys beat Delbarton to win the Non-Public Group 3 crown in 2014, before beating Mater Dei Prep in the final in 2018.
“I’m just happy for the kids, the community, the RBC program,” said Red Bank Catholic coach Mike Lange. “It’s just a great program when you see the following we have, the kids are into it. I’m just astonished how great it is.”
Finally, the players made their way towards the stands where they interacted with the crowd, with each showing its support for the other, the final chapter in what has been one of the most emotional postseason runs imaginable.
Stephen Edelson is a USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey sports columnist who has been covering athletics in the state and at the Jersey Shore for nearly 35 years. Contact him at: @SteveEdelsonAPP; firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Red Bank Catholic QB Alex Brown ends emotional two weeks with state title