• Dan Russoman

Preseason begins for football teams

Sacco preps for last season at St. Joe


St. Joseph Academy running back Richard Chandler is tackled by several teammates during a drill held last week. (THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—St. Joseph Academy’s football team began its preparations for a new season last week, as players participated in drills and worked on special teams just two days into official practice sessions.


The 2022 season will the last at St. Joseph for head coach Paul Sacco, who announced his decision to leave the program at the conclusion of the season earlier this month.


“It’s a little strange, knowing that I’m doing this for the last time,” Sacco said last week.


Sacco was joined by several new assistant coaches at last week’s early-morning workout, as players took part in several blocking and ball-handling drills while also practicing kickoffs and returns.


“We don’t have a lot of players, but there’s talent here,” Sacco said.


St. Joe is coming off a 9-3 season that ended with a loss in the Non-Public Group B semifinals, falling to eventual state champion Red Bank Catholic.


Many of the players from that squad have been lost to graduation, and this year’s Wildcats will feature many new starters on both sides of the line of scrimmage.


“Some of these kids are going to have to grow up real quick. I’m not really sure what to expect at this point. We’ve looked very good at times and very bad at times. What do they say? It’s a work in progress,” Sacco said.


St. Joseph is in the West Jersey League’s Independence Division this season, along with Cedar Creek, Delsea, Ocean City and Winslow.


“It’s a tough division. I hope we can compete,” Sacco said.


Outside the division, St. Joe will take on rivals St. Augustine Prep and Holy Spirit, as well as Willingboro and Lenape.


“If we can stay healthy all season, we might make the playoffs and then we’ll see what happens,” Sacco said.


On August 17, St. Joe traveled to St. Joseph [Montvale] for a scrimmage.


“Not sure what’ll happen there. They [St. Joseph] are very, very talented,” Sacco said.


The Wildcats will complete their preseason on August 20 at Shawnee at 10 a.m.


“Two scrimmages almost back-to-back , so we’ll find out where we’re at,” Sacco said.


After those scrimmages, St. Joe will not be back on the field until its season opener at St. Augustine on September 2. Unlike many teams, the Wildcats do not have a game the weekend of August 26.


“We thought we were going to play up at Kingsway, but they decided to take an extra week. Right now, it’s probably too late to pick up a game, so we’ll open at St. Augustine. It might be for the better because it’ll give us a few more days to prepare and get healthy,” Sacco said.


St. Joseph opens the season at St. Augustine Prep on September 2 at 6 p.m.