Ahmad Ross experienced the thrill of his high school football career at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford last December.
The St. Joseph High School running back, now a junior, was sprinting toward the end zone in the Wildcats’ 41-22 win over Holy Spirit in the state Non-Public II title game.
Ross looked up and in real time watched his touchdown run on the giant MetLife video scoreboard.
“It was an extreme confidence booster,” Ross said. “That game set the standard for me. I realized no moment is too big for me. It really helped me mature and grow a lot.”
Top-seeded St. Joe (9-1) and second-seeded Holy Spirit (7-4) will meet again for the state Non-Public II title 4 p.m. Sunday at Rutgers University.
Ross was one of the stars of last year’s state championship win. He ran for 139 yards and two touchdowns and picked off a pass on defense. It was a performance that propelled him into this season.
“MetLife was a wonderful experience,” Ross said. “Everyone dreams of playing on the NFL stage.”
This season the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Ross is tied for the Wildcats team lead in tackles with 72.
“He’s always around the football,” St. Joe coach Paul Sacco said.
Ross has also rushed for 341 yards and three touchdowns and caught nine passes for 94 yards and a score.
“I worked extremely hard in the offseason,” Ross said. “This year has been exciting for us a team. I just want to do what I can to help our team win football games.”
Ross lives in the Seabrook section of Upper Deerfield Township. He started playing football when he was 7 after he saw a sign advertising sign-ups for a Cumberland County midget league.
“I don’t know why, but I asked (my mother) if I could play,” he said. “She just told me once you start something you can’t quit.”
Ross was the team MVP that first season and hasn’t missed a year of football yet.
Ross played safety last season but moved to linebacker this year. He’s been more of a force on defense than offense this season, and that’s just fine with him.
“Defense has always been my thing,” he said. “I definitely see myself playing defense rather than offense on the next level. Defensively, the game comes to me pretty easy. I can read things fast. On offense you get all the shine, and you make the papers. But defense wins championships.”
St. Joe and Holy Spirit met in the regular season on Nov. 2 with St. Joe rallying in the second half for a 22-19 win. Ross knows the Spirit offense with running backs E’lijah Gray and Patrick Smith will test the Wildcats defense.
“Holy Spirit is a very dangerous team,” Ross said. I’ve known E’lijah and (Smith) since I was young. We grew up playing on all-star teams. They play hard every snap.”
St. Joe began the season with a 34-20 win over Highland Regional on Aug. 31 at Rutgers.
On Sunday, the Wildcats will finish the year at the same location.
“They say you want to start strong and finish strong,” Ross said. “We started off strong, and that’s how we’re going to finish.”