For Matt Sluka, there was only one way to follow up last year’s campaign, when he led Kellenberg to an unbeaten season and was the most valuable player of the title game:
By doing it all again.
Sluka completed his standout encore performance by accounting for five touchdowns and leading No. 1 Kellenberg to a 41-6 win over No. 4 Xavier in the Catholic High School Football League ‘AA’ championship on Saturday afternoon at Mitchel Athletic Complex. The senior and second-year varsity starter completed all five of his passes for 111 yards and three touchdowns and added 109 rushing yards and two scores on 13 carries.
The win completed a second consecutive perfect season for Kellenberg (11-0), which scored on six of its first seven drives on Saturday, before kneeling to run out the clock on the final possession.
“This was the goal walking into the season, this was the goal the entire year, and we achieved that goal today,” said Sluka, who was the game's offensive MVP for the second straight year. “It’s unbelievable to do this again.”
Sluka’s backfield mate Jordan Delucia added 144 rushing yards and a TD on 14 carries, and Kellenberg also got a strong performance from its defense, led by the game’s defensive MVP Jake Deakin.
The Firebirds wasted little time taking the lead after they recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff and Sluka ran for a 36-yard TD on the first play from scrimmage. Kyle Sharkey’s extra point made it 7-0.
The defense got a stop on Xavier’s first possession, setting up a 6-play, 65-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 16-yard pass from Sluka to Daniel Wilson with 3:03 left in the first quarter.
“You can’t coach what he does,” coach Kevin Hanifan said of Sluka. “He just does stuff you couldn't draw on a board. You’d be crazy to. He’s that awesome.”
Xavier (7-4) looked like it had a chance to creep back into the game after Anthony Bruno scored on a 13-yard rush midway through the second quarter. The Knights followed that by forcing a three-and-out on the next Kellenberg possession.
The Firebirds quashed that momentum when Jake Deakin forced a fumble that Kellenberg recovered on the first play of the ensuing Xavier drive.
“I saw the running back coming, I [lowered] the boom, it popped out, and we fell right on it,” Deakin said.
10 plays later, Sluka was in the end zone again after a 13-yard run on third-and-8 that punctuated a 40-yard drive. Sharkey’s third extra point extended the lead to 21-6 with 52 seconds remaining in the first half.
The Firebirds went right back to work in the third quarter with Sluka throwing a pair of long TD passes to cap Kellenberg's first two possessions of the period. He found Matthew Mongelli in the end zone for a 42-yard TD and then threw a 46-yard score to a streaking Sean Boll down the right sideline to make it 34-6.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Delucia ran for a 57-yard TD and Sharkey’s fifth extra point capped the scoring.
“It’s unbelievable, never losing a varsity game,” Sluka said. “You can’t do any better than that.”