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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Preseason begins for local football teams

Dan Russoman/THG. Hammonton High School’s football team opens the 2023 season against St. John Vianney on August 25. The game will be played at Ocean City High School.

HAMMONTON—High school football teams began their official workouts this week, as preparations begin for the 2023 season.

Locally, expectations are high for Hammonton High School’s Blue Devils, who are coming off a strong 2022 campaign that saw them finish 9-3 and reach the South Jersey Group 4 championship game. The Devils fell in that matchup to eventual state champion Millville, but this fall coach Jim Raso and his staff are confident that Hammonton can exceed last season’s success.

“We feel like we’re a pretty good football team. We can’t wait to get started,” Raso said.

Across town at St. Joseph Academy, the expectations are more tempered, as the Wildcats will begin the season with a young, inexperienced group of players.

In addition to the many new faces is first year head coach Ron Dorsey, who takes over at St. Joe for longtime coach Paul Sacco, who left the program at the end of last season.

Dorsey was an assistant coach for the Wildcats and is familiar with the program.

“We’re facing a challenge, that’s for sure. We lost some very good players [to graduation and transfer], and we’re going to be very, very young this year. But the kids have worked hard so far and we’re eager to get going,” Dorsey said.

Depth will be a huge issue for the Wildcats, whose roster may only total around 25 players this season.

“Injuries will be a concern for us, along with inexperience. We play a very tough schedule,” Dorsey said.

Last year, St. Joe finished with a 6-4 record, falling in the Non-Public B semifinals to DePaul.

Both St. Joseph and Hammonton will face some of the top teams in southern New Jersey this season.

Here’s a breakdown of each team’s schedule.

August 25

The season opens for both Hammonton and St. Joe on August 25, as the Blue Devils will take on St. John Vianney in Ocean City as part of the Battle at the Beach showcase. St. John Vianney was 5-5 a year ago and brings back some talented varsity veterans to take on Hammonton in what should be a good early-season test for the Blue Devils.

Also on August 25, St. Joseph will begin its season at home against Carteret. The Ramblers were 7-4 last season, falling in the Central Jersey Group 3 semifinals.

August 31/September 1

Hammonton’s second game is on the road at Cherokee, always one of the top-ranked teams in the region. The Chiefs were rebuilding last season and posted a 5-6 record. The following evening, St. Joseph will host St. Augustine Prep, expected to be one of the top-ranked teams in South Jersey. The Hermits bring back several starters from a team that finished at 6-5 last year.

September 8

Hammonton visits Highland for its third game of the season, a team the Blue Devils trounced 40-7 a year ago when the Tartans finished with a 6-5 record. St. Joe goes on the road on September 8, taking on rival Holy Spirit in one of only two away games for the Wildcats in 2023. Last year, St. Joe edged Spirit 30-26.

September 14/15

The Blue Devils will play at home for the first time on September 14, when they host Eastern.

The Vikings played well in a loss to Hammonton last season, and will be a challenging opponent again this year. St. Joe was originally slated to have a bye week on September 15, but moved up their Thanksgiving weekend matchup with Winslow this season. The Eagles rolled past the Wildcats last year, and have one of the top teams in South Jersey this fall.

September 22

Last year, St. Joe edged Willingboro 14-7, but the Chimeras will likely be favored this season when they travel to take on the Wildcats on September 22. That same night, Hammonton will look to avenge last season’s loss to Mainland when they host the Mustangs in what could be a preview of a postseason matchup.

September 29

Hammonton hits the midway point of the season with a game at home against Rancocas Valley. While the Blue Devils are looking for a win against the Red Devils, St. Joe will also be at home, hosting Cedar Creek in what should be an evenly-matched contest.

October 6

After playing three-straight games at home, Hammonton will be back on the road, traveling to Timber Creek in another matchup against an always strong Chargers team. St. Joseph will play at home on October 6, hosting Ocean City in what could be a close game for the Wildcats.

October 13

A year ago, St. Joe stunned Lenape with a pair of late touchdowns to spoil the Indians homecoming game. This year, Lenape will look for revenge when it plays at St. Joseph. Also on October 13, Hammonton will play at Delsea, as both teams will be looking to sure up their playoff seedings in what could be one of the best games of the season.

October 20

The regular season ends for Hammonton when the Blue Devils host Ocean City in a game that could impact the playoffs. On the same night, St. Joe will go on the road to wrap up its regular season schedule at Delsea.


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