• Dan Russoman

St. Augustine overpowers St. Joseph


St. Joseph’s Ja’son Prevard (9), tackles St. Augustine Prep quarterback Trey McLeer during the first half of last week’s West Jersey Football League matchup. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

RICHLAND—Strong play at the line of scrimmage allowed St. Augustine Prep’s football team to control the clock and keep St. Joseph Academy’s offense in check as the host Hermits posted a 24-7 win against the Wildcats last week.


“We were manhandled up front,” St. Joseph coach Paul Sacco said.


“Their [St. Augustine’s] line did a great job. They pushed us around on both sides of the ball,” Sacco said.


Playing with more depth on both the offensive and defensive line, the Prep was able to keep the ball on the ground for much of the game, helping the Hermits control the clock while it was putting points on the scoreboard.


“They [the Prep] didn’t do anything new, anything we weren’t ready for. We just didn’t get it done up front and didn’t execute. Our tackling was terrible tonight. They’re too good a team to play like we did tonight and expect to win,” Sacco said.


St. Joseph struggled to move the football all night. The Wildcats finished with less than 120 yards of offense, while St. Augustine gained more than 240 just on the ground.


More than 100 of those yards came from senior Kanye Udoh, who finished with 149 yards rushing and a fourth-quarter touchdown that put an exclamation point on the win for St.Augustine.


“We knew they would keep it on the ground. Kanye [Udoh] is a very talented runner and we didn’t tackle well,” Sacco said.


St. Joe was also hurt by its inability to take advantage of St. Augustine’s mistakes. The Prep fumbled five times in the game, but the Wildcats only managed to recover one.


“They made mistakes and we didn’t capitalize. You can’t let a team fumble five times and get the ball back on four of them,” Sacco said.


The game looked to be a defensive struggle early, as each stalled on its opening drive. St. Joe’s second punt of the night pinned the Prep at its own 25-yard line and a 10-yard loss on the first play of the Hermits’ ensuing drive appeared to give the Wildcats some momentum. That disappeared on the next play when St. Augustine’s Kenny Selby sprinted around the right side, broke a tackle and managed to stay in bounds as he raced down the sideline for an 85-yard touchdown run that gave the Hermits an early 7-0 lead.


“That really hurt us. We had the kid pinned in and our kid dives and misses the tackle and then we can’t even push him [Selby] out of bounds. We can’t let things like that happen,” Sacco said.


After yet another stalled St. Joseph drive, St. Augustine added to its lead when it drove 75 yards in 12 plays, all runs, and settled for a 32-yard field goal from Brandon Bispo.


Trailing 10-0, the Wildcats managed their best drive of the first half as the second quarter wound down. St. Joe reached the St. Augustine 36-yard line, but Ja’son Prevard’s pass with 14 seconds remaining in the half was intercepted by Selby, ending the threat.


Early in the third quarter, St. Joe scored its lone points of the night, taking advantage of a St. Augustine miscue. On third down of the opening drive of the second half, Prep quarterback Trey McLeer was sacked by St. Joe’s Tallen Murray and lost the football. Zach Cruet recovered the fumble at the Prep 14-yard line for the Wildcats, and after a 14-yard pass from Prevard to Jahmeer Cartagena put the ball at the Hermits’ 2-yard line, Kevin Mayfield scored to trim St. Augustine’s lead to 10-7.


A bad snap resulted in a 14-yard loss that helped stop the Prep’s next drive, but St. Joe stalled on its ensuing possession, failing to cross midfield.


With less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Hermits took over at their own 31 and quickly moved down the field, padding their lead after Udoh broke loose for a 45-yard run that led to McLeer’s 5-yard touchdown run five seconds into the fourth quarter. McLeer dropped the ball on the scoring play, but was able to pick it up and spring through the middle for a touchdown that gave the Hermits a 17-7 lead.


St. Joe’s offensive struggles continued, as its next drive stalled after three plays. St. Augustine then sealed the win by driving 65 yards in five plays, ending with Udoh’s 14-yard touchdown run.


“They [St. Joseph] are very well-coached, so going in you know it’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of talent and kids who can make big plays. I thought our defense rose to the occasion tonight and had a great game,” St. Augustine coach Pete Lancetta said.


“We wanted to be more physical tonight and I thought we were. Our plan was to try to run the ball and we were able to. When we’re moving the ball like that, that’s what we’re going to do. This was a big win for us,” Lancetta said.


The loss dropped St. Joe to 2-2 this season.


“We knew that our first four games were going to be tough. We played four very good teams. Our goal was to be 3-1 and we didn’t achieve that. Now we just have to go back to work and try to correct the mistakes,” Sacco said.


St. Joseph’s next game is September 24 at Eastern at 6 p.m.