• Dan Russoman

St. Joe blasts Notre Dame for third-straight win


St. Joseph’s Myles Solomon (54) leaps to deflect a pass during the Wildcats game against Notre Dame last week at Rowan University. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

GLASSBORO—St. Joseph Academy’s football team continued its midseason surge last week, posting its third-straight lopsided victory, a 51-7 win against Notre Dame in a game played at Rowan University.


Some had begun to doubt St. Joe following a 2-2 start to the season, but the Wildcats have bounced back nicely, winning their last three games by a combined score of 148-16.


St. Joe was missing a few players last week who sat out due to contact-tracing rules regarding COVID-19, but the Wildcats were able to fill the gaps and come away with an easy win.


“We were scrambling a little bit because we don’t have a whole lot of depth this year. But a few kids stepped up and after a sloppy start, we played well in the second half,” St. Joseph coach Paul Sacco said.


At times last week it seemed the Wildcats were their own worst enemy, as penalties and missed assignments hampered the offense and cost St. Joe a pair of touchdowns.


The Wildcats had a long punt return called back on a penalty as well as an interception return for a touchdown by Cohl Mercado canceled by a flag.


The penalties left Sacco confused and frustrated.


“In the first half, we return a punt, [it] gets called back, an interception for a touchdown, it’s called back. And sometimes I think it’s just us being overaggressive but every week we’re seeing the same mistakes,” Sacco said.


Both St. Joseph and Mercado were able to overcome the miscues, as the latter turned in one of his best games of the season, rushing for 78 yards while catching three passes for 126 yards and scoring three touchdowns.


“I felt good tonight. [Quarterback] Ja’son [Prevard] made some nice throws and the line blocked well and opened things up. I’ll just do what I can to help us win,” Mercado said.


“He [Mercado] is such a dangerous player. We’ve been able to use him all over the last few weeks, running the ball and as a receiver,” Sacco said.


Mercado gave St. Joe the lead midway through the first quarter when he hauled in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Prevard for a 7-0 Wildcats lead.


Early in the second quarter, Mercado scored on a 22-yard run. Notre Dame answered with its best drive of the game, capped by A.J Surace’s 16-yard touchdown pass to John Liedtka with 8:35 remaining in the half.


It would be the closest the Irish would get to St. Joe and the only time Notre Dame found the end zone in what proved to be a long night at Rowan.


Seconds after Notre Dame’s score, St. Joe went to the air again, this time with Prevard connecting with Mercado on a 46-yard touchdown pass.


The Wildcats picked up a safety late in the half when Demarion McCoy sacked Surace in the end zone and on its ensuing drive, St. Joe added a 10-yard Kevin Mayfield touchdown run for a 30-7 halftime lead.


“We made a lot of mistakes, but were able to make some plays and have a big lead at the half,” Sacco said.


Playing with the lead, St. Joe kept things simple in the second half, running the ball and letting its defense control the game.


“Second half, we knew we were getting the ball start and we wanted to keep it on the ground a little more,” Sacco said.


Mayfield’s 1-yard touchdown run opened the second half scoring for the Wildcats, and late in the third quarter, Jahqir Haley added a 4-yard touchdown run.


The Wildcats’ last touchdown came in the fourth quarter when Richard Chandler scored in an 11-yard run.


The Wildcats finished the game with 277 rushing yards, led by Mayfield’s 95 on 16 carries.


The recent stretch of high-scoring games has put St. Joe in position to win its division. Sacco hopes the Wildcats can continue to improve.


“We can put points on the board, but we’re going to start seeing some really good teams. We’ll worry about tomorrow and go from there,” Sacco said.


St. Joseph visits Kingsway on October 15 at 7 p.m. then ends the regular season on October 23 against Washington Twp. in a game at William T. Capella Field in Hammonton.


“Kingsway is a very, very good football team. They’re well coached and will be tough. And then we play Washington Twp., another team playing very well this season,” Sacco said.