• Dan Russoman

Many questions as local football teams prep for season


Hammonton High School’s football team began working out last week as it prepares for its August 27 season opener at Absegami. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

The local high school football teams were met with heat and humidity last week as they began preparing for the new season.


Both squads are set to begin playing regular season games on August 27, leaving little time to prepare this summer.


Both had their share of ups and downs a year ago, as they battled opponents on the field and the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions off it.


The pandemic may yet be an issue this year, but for now the focus is on the playing games as both Hammonton and St. Joe face some tough questions heading into the new campaign.


At Hammonton, the Blue Devils lost almost their entire starting lineup to graduation and have many holes to fill.


Perhaps the biggest is in the offensive line, where Hammonton will need to replace four starters. Senior tackle Luis Rodriguez is dependable and will need to lead an inexperienced unit this year.


The Devils are also holding tryouts for the quarterback position, and may not decide on a starter until after this week’s two scrimmages are completed.


On defense, Hammonton brings back just four starters, and will feature a young squad that needs to adjust to the game at the varsity level.


At St. Joe, Wildcats’ coach Paul Sacco is looking for a few players to step up as leaders this season after losing a solid class to graduation.


Like their rivals at Hammonton, the quarterback position appears to be up for grabs, and the Wildcats also will need some younger skill players to step into unfamiliar roles this season.


St. Joe’s biggest concern entering the new season could be depth, as the Wildcats will likely only dress 30 players as they take on one of the toughest schedules in the West Jersey Football League.


Any significant injuries could doom the season for the Wildcats, who lack replacements at many key positions.


There haven’t been too many rebuilding seasons at either school in recent memory, and while both teams are confident heading into the year, inexperience and depth could take a toll on each this fall.


This week’s scrimmages will reveal a lot, and both teams will need to adjust before the season opens.


Dan Russoman is the sports editor of The Gazette. Watch him on “Gazette Sports Week” every Wednesday afternoon at www.hammontongazette.com. Follow Russoman on Twitter @DanRussoman.