One spin move changed everything for Jarred Bianchini this high school football season.

The St. Joseph running back and defensive back spun away from a Middle Township defender on Sept. 19. Bianchini sprinted 68 yards for a touchdown.

But as the crowd cheered, Bianchini worried. He had heard his right knee "pop" when he made the move. The senior had torn his anterior cruciate ligament.

Bianchini was supposed to lead the Wildcats to a state title game by scoring touchdowns and making defensive plays.

Instead, he has led them by working hard just to be able to take the field again.

Top-seeded St. Joe (7-2) plays second-seeded Gloucester Catholic (7-2) for the state Non-Public II title at Paul VI in Haddonfield on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Bianchini never thought he had a chance of suiting up for this contest.

"I thought I was done (for the season)," he said.

Bianchini stayed in the Middle game after he hurt his knee. A few plays later, everyone in the crowd knew he was hurt.

He ran the ball but couldn't cut. A Middle defender's helmet hit the already injured knee. Bianchini crumpled to the grass.

"I never had that much pain ever," he said. "I was screaming."

St. Joe coach Paul Sacco immediately feared the worse for Bianchini.

"Kids wait for that senior year," Sacco said. "It's special."

Doctors recommended Bianchini have surgery. But if he did that, his season would be over.

"Nine out of 10 kids would have said 'That's it,' " Sacco said.

Bianchini decided to try something else. He elected to try to strengthen his knee through daily rehabilitation and get it to the point where he could play again.

"I felt like I let my teammates and my family down," he said. "I wanted to be a part of the team."

Even thought he was hurt, Bianchini attended most practices. He went to the games dressed in regular clothes.

Bianchini was supposed to be a mainstay for the Wildcats this season. He had started as a sophomore and junior on both offense and defense. He's a team captain.

"It was hard to watch him standing there," Sacco said. "I'm sure it was hard for him and his family."

Bianchini watched as St. Joe beat Holy Spirit 19-14 on Oct. 3. The victory was the Wildcats' biggest win since they beat Bishop Eustace in the 2006 state Non-Public II title game.

"It was hard to watch that game," he said of the win over the Spartans. "I was a part of it, but I just watched."

Bianchini eventually strengthened his knee to the point where he could work on his agility. He got a brace which gave the knee support.

Bianchini suited up for the St. Augustine Prep game on Oct. 23 but did not play. He took the field against Lower Cape May on Oct. 30 but did not touch the ball. He carried once for negative one yard against Buena Regional on Nov. 6.

But Bianchini showed flashes of his old form in St. Joe's 41-0 semifinal win over Pingry last Saturday.

He carried eight times for 50 yards and scored when he broke a trap play up the middle for a 9-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

"It was a great feeling," he said. "My teammates all came up to me. I didn't think I'd ever score again in high school football."

Bianchini will have surgery shortly after the season ends.

But there are still games to be played this season. St. Joe will try to win its first state title in three years Saturday.

Bianchini grew up in Hammonton and his goal since he entered high school has been to be an integral part of a St. Joe championship team.

There's no telling how much he'll play against Gloucester Catholic, but his example is one for all the Wildcats to follow.

Contact Michael McGarry:

609-272-7185