Thirty-two years can be a long time to wait, depending on what you’re searching for. St. Anne-Pacelli head football coach Dwight Jones, soaked in Gatorade and grinning from ear-to-ear, certainly didn’t seem like a man who had spent that long searching for a title.
Jones and the St. Anne-Pacelli Vikings won their first state championship Friday night, defeating the Stratford Eagles 10-0 in Macon for the GIAA 4A state title.
“These guys deserve it, it feels fantastic,” head coach Dwight Jones said mere seconds before his players drenched him. “These guys care about each other, they don’t give up… that’s why we’re champions tonight.”
The win was a dominant one, and brought a spirited Pacelli road crowd to a deafening peak when the final horn sounded.
“It’s a dream come true, it’s something (I’ve) tried to do for 32 years of head coaching, and we had to have the right team to do it, and this was the right team,” Jones said. “These guys deserve it, it’s not about me, it’s about them.”
Jones has been with the Vikings since 2019. Pacelli had only one loss this season and finished with a 12-1 record for one of the best years in school history.
Their win Friday at Mercer University’s Five Star Stadium came courtesy of their defense, who held Stratford to no points. The Eagles’ longest play from scrimmage tallied just 11 yards.
“Well we played a good game, our defensive coordinator does a fantastic job, our guys played with heart, soul and guts,” Jones said. “They played for 48 minutes, didn’t let them breathe.”
It was a defensive first half for both teams, with neither squad able to get a drive going. Both teams relied heavily on the run but couldn’t muster any big plays. There were only 116 yards of total offense in the first half.
A key interception gave Pacelli great field position, but their kicker missed a field goal that would have scored the only points for either side. The two teams entered the break deadlocked in a scoreless tie.
The second half saw more chapters of the same story, but one key play changed the game for both sides.
After a stop deep in their own territory, Stratford’s punter bobbled the snap and was tackled on the eight-yard line. The field position set Pacelli up and, after a penalty moved them back, the Vikings struck for an 18-yard touchdown pass to take the lead in the third quarter.
When the ball fell into wide receiver Cooper Trombley’s hands in the end zone, the game felt as good as over. A field goal early in the fourth quarter sealed the difference as the Vikings went on to win 10-0.