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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Ocean City spoils debut of St. Joe’s new home


Dan Russoman/THG. St. Joseph’s Jayden Holt-Gandy (24) runs past Ocean City’s Ben Zapata (10) early in last week’s game.

HAMMONTON—Two defensive scores and four touchdown runs from Duke Guenther helped Ocean City overcome a mistake-plagued performance to spoil St. Joseph Academy’s first home game in almost four years, as the Red Raiders rolled past the host Wildcats 42-7 on October 6.


The game was the first played at the new synthetic-turf field at the Moss Mill Road Athletic Complex, and marked the first time St. Joe has hosted a game at its own facility since then St. Joseph High School beat Hudson Catholic in a state semifinal game on November 23, 2019.


“It’s nice to finally have a place to call home. I just wish we could have played a better game,” St. Joseph coach Ron Dorsey said.


Fans filled the bleachers on the home sideline and circled the fence surrounding the field. St. Joe held its homecoming festivities at halftime and many alumni were in attendance.


“We have a great turnout and it’s exciting to see all the support. We’ve waited a long time for this,” St. Joseph athletic director Tim Fingerhut said.


The field was certified for play a few days before the October 6 game, and while there are a few issues with the field markings and lines, St. Joseph was pleased with the night.


“This is our home. We’re working to fix a few things, but it’s a big night for us. This is something we can use to help build not only our football program, but other sports as well, soccer, field hockey and lacrosse,” St. Joseph head of school Stephen Cappuccio said.


The only low for the night was the outcome of the game, as both teams were hurt by mistakes, but only Ocean City was able to overcome them.


“We just hurt ourselves too much. Penalties, turnovers, mental mistakes. I know Ocean City didn’t play a clean game either, but we just couldn’t get anything going,” Dorsey said.


Ocean City had possession to start the game, but the Red Raiders opening drive was hampered by three penalties and stalled at the St. Joe 44-yard line.


The Wildcats were moving the ball, but on a first down at their own 38-yard line, Red Raiders linebacker Ryan Callahan stripped the ball from St. Joseph fullback Matt Greco and raced 61-yards for a touchdown.


After a St. Joseph punt, Guenther scored his first touchdown of the night, capping a six-play Ocean City drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.


A 58-yard kickoff return by Shane Reed set the Wildcats up at the Ocean City 32-yard line, but the drive quickly ended when Nick Layton intercepted a Anthony Salamone pass and ran it back 80 yards for a touchdown that put Ocean City ahead 21-0.


“We can’t make mistakes like that. They were hurting themselves with penalties and our defense was playing well and we turned the ball over twice and they scored. We just dug ourselves too deep a hole,” Dorsey said.


St. Joe answered with its only score of the evening, as Salamone launched a fourth-down pass down the left sideline where Reed hauled it in and broke free for a 58-yard touchdown catch.


Ocean City added a score, taking advantage of two costly St. Joseph penalties to put another Guenther touchdown run on the board, this one a 9-yard run.


The penalties against St. Joe negated a pair of holding calls against Ocean City that had the Red Raiders pinned deep in their own territory.


“That drive hurt because we had them deep in their own end. We get an unsportsmanlike conduct and then a personal foul that kept that drive going. We need to be more disciplined and keep our composure,” Dorsey said.


Leading 29-7, Ocean City stopped another St. Joseph drive, this one at the Wildcats 43 and four plays later, Guenther was back in the end zone, this time from 7-yards away.


On its first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Ocean City put the finishing touches on the win when Guenther broke free for a 40-yard touchdown run.


The loss dropped St. Joseph to 0-7 this season with two games left on the schedule.


“It’s tough. At this point, I can see the losing starting to wear the kids down. We’ve been through a lot and I have to give them credit, they’ve stayed positive, supported each other and hung together. Attitude is not our problem right now, its execution and just the fact that we’re so young and playing some very strong teams,” Dorsey said.


The loss was tough to take, but it was tempered by being able to finally play at home.


“It’s such a great thing for us, to be able to have our own home field after so long. The players were excited to get out here and play on their field and I just want to thank everyone at St. Joe and the Town of Hammonton for making this happen,” Dorsey said.


St. Joseph will play at home again on October 13 when it hosts Lenape at 6 p.m.


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