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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Keep an eye on these athletes this fall

Dan Russoman/THG. Among the top athletes returning to varsity teams at Hammonton High School and St. Joseph Academy this fall are, left, Kenny Smith (3) and Christian Medina (58), Jalia Cooper (1) and Marco Schiano (21). Athletes in all fall sports will begin preparing for the new season this month.



Dan Russoman/THG. Among the top athletes returning to varsity teams at Hammonton High School and St. Joseph Academy this fall are, left, Kenny Smith (5) and Christian Medina (58), Jalia Cooper (1) and Marco Schiano (21). Athletes in all fall sports will begin preparing for the new season this month.

HAMMONTON—The start of football practice on August 9 marks the beginning of the fall sports season at Hammonton High School and St. Joseph Academy.


In the next two weeks, soccer, field hockey, volleyball, tennis and cross country teams will also begin their preseason workouts as they prepare for what should all be strong seasons.


Some teams are rebuilding while others are expecting to be championship contenders, both in the Cape Atlantic League or on the statewide level. And while every team lost a few key players to graduation, all will return veteran varsity athletes who will be ready to lead their teams to success.


FOOTBALL


Perhaps no local athlete enters the 2023 fall season with higher expectations than Hammonton’s Kenny Smith.


Smith enjoyed a breakout 2022 season where he rushed for more than 1,600 yards and was a key player for a Blue Devils team that reached the South Jersey Group 4 championship game.

“We’re lucky to have him. He’s worked hard in the weight room and with speed training and he’s going to do some great things this season,” Hammonton football coach Jim Raso said.


Smith will run behind a veteran offensive line that features some of the best blockers in the West Jersey Football League. Among them is junior Christian Medina, who earned several awards for his play last season.


A pair of linebackers, Andrew Wehner and Joey Gillen are also back for Hammonton and form one of the best tandems in the region.


A newcomer who should make an impact for the Blue Devils this season is quarterback Drew Craig, a transfer from Williamstown.


“He’s got a good arm and he’s picking up our system. We’re expecting good things from him,” Raso said.


At St. Joseph, the Wildcats will feature a young team that lacks varsity experience. While many key players were lost to graduation and others opted to transfer away from St. Joe, the Wildcats return a few who should be contributors this season.


Among those back is sophomore lineman Jordan Palmer, who started a year ago and brings veteran leadership to a young team.


Dawain Jackson and Hanif Hernandez, a pair of defensive backs, saw varsity action as freshmen last season and return this year to help lead the Wildcats.


FIELD HOCKEY


St. Joseph’s field hockey team was one of the best in southern New Jersey last season and despite losing some key players to graduation, coach Corinne Etter-Veight’s squad should be among the top in the region again this fall.


Leading the way for the Wildcats will be senior Jalia Cooper, who scored 13 goals last season after missing the first half after transferring to St. Joe.


Also back is sophomore Stella Devlin, who scored 13 times last year, as well as another sophomore, Sophia Kenelia, who tallied 11 goals. Defensively, Cass Perri and Elizabeth Dainton are senior leaders for St. Joseph. Another player to keep an eye on this year for the Wildcats will be sophomore goalie Katie Canova.


At Hammonton, the Blue Devils should contend for a division and sectional title this season, and will be led by a talented group of veteran players.


Junior Kiley Kozlowski led the Blue Devils with 14 goals last season, and leads a strong group of scorers that includes Madison Gazzara, Abby Goblirsch and Chole Comunale. Also back is goalie Angelina Catania.


SOCCER


Not many teams lost as much varsity talent to graduation as Hammonton’s boys soccer squad, but the Blue Devils should remain one of the top teams in the Cape Atlantic League this season.


Leading a strong group of returning players is senior Marco Schiano, who tallied eight goals last year and handed out three assists. Another senior, John Waddell also returns, coming off a 10-goal season in 2022. Jaxon Miller and Caden Humphries add veteran depth.


At St. Joseph, the Wildcats continue their rebuild this season and will return some strong varsity players.


Matthew Cassetta was among the team’s leading scorers last year, and will be joined by goalie Gavin Steiner and defender Nick Melchiore.


On the girls side, Hammonton is hoping to improve this year and will be led by senior Juliana Dogostino, who had four goals last season. Reilynn Carr, Sophia Booker Suvea Colon and Danielle Lamanteer are other key players this year for the Blue Devils.


VOLLEYBALL


Coach Mitch Morrell expects a strong season from Hammonton this year, and the Blue Devils will rely on returning letter-winners Cara Rivera, Madelena Erman, Violet Speakman and Mia Raneri to lead the way this fall.


St. Joseph hopes to improve this season and a few varsity players return to the floor this year.


Julianna King was one of St. Joe top performers last season, and Lilly Sherwood adds varsity depth.


TENNIS


Hammonton must replace much of its roster from a season ago, and both Emily Stanziale and Mia Donio should return in larger roles for the Blue Devils this year.


CROSS COUNTRY


Hammonton’s girls program had some talented underclassmen a year ago, and Natalie Clauhs and Hailee Keubler had posted some strong times this summer. On the boys side, Matt Martino, Sean Fudala and Aiden Peeke will lead a solid team for the Devils.


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