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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

St. Joe stuns Lenape with dramatic comeback

THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940. Trevin DelGozzo connected on three field goals, including the game-winner in the final seconds as St. Joseph rallied to defeat Lenape last week.

MEDFORD—Paul Sacco said he’d never seen anything like it.

Most who watched St. Joseph Academy’s dramatic, come-from-behind 29-28 win at Lenape last weekend agreed.

It was unbelievable.

Trailing 28-13 with 6:27 left in the game, the Wildcats scored three times, recovered a pair of onside kicks and stunned a large Lenape homecoming crowd.

“I’ve coached 41 years and never seen anything like that. I can’t even describe it. I’ve coached a lot of games and some have been very close, but never one like that,” Sacco said.

“Lenape was stunned. It was their homecoming and they had their hall of fame inductions. I’m just so happy for our kids. They never gave up. We don’t have many kids this year and there aren’t any superstars, just a bunch of no-names, but I’m glad I stuck with them, they’re having a special season,” Sacco said.

Last week’s comeback featured heroics from several players, including kicker Trevin DelGozzo, whose 34-yard field goal with a second left in the game gave St. Joseph the win.

“I can’t say enough about him [DelGozzo]. He was outstanding on the two onside kicks and the field goal,” Sacco said.

DelGozzo connected on three field goals in the game, a career-high, and was able to execute on a pair of late onside kicks that helped St. Joe rally for the win.

The game appeared over when Lenape’s Ethan Craig returned a blocked punt 23 yards for a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, giving the host Indians a 28-13 lead.

That score came minutes after Lenape’s Michael LeMay returned a St. Joe punt 48-yard for a score.

Trailing by 15 points, the Wildcats were down but confident they could come back to win.

“We made a few mistakes on special teams and it didn’t look good for us, but the kids stayed positive. They just kept saying, ‘We can do it,’” Sacco said.

The comeback began with 6:14 left in the game.

A 58-yard kickoff return by Jamaad Davis set St. Joe up at the Lenape 30-yard line. The Wildcats quickly moved the ball toward the goal line, using a 15-yard pass from Jimmy Mantuano to James Steel and a short run by Mantuano to set up Nasir Mahmoud’s 9-yard touchdown run that cut Lenape’s lead to 28-19.

Needing the ball back quickly, DelGozzo bounced an onside kick that was recovered by Richard Chandler at the Lenape 45-yard line.

Typically a run-first offense, St. Joe went to the air on its ensuing drive, as Mantuano connected on passes to Mahmoud, Steel and Ty Mercado to move to the Lenape 6-yard line.

With 3:01 left in the game, Mantuano raced around the right side for a 6-yard touchdown that pulled the Wildcats to within two points, 28-26.

Having gained all the momentum, Sacco called for another onside kick and DelGozzo delivered again, this time sending the ball to the left side where Ty Mercado recovered at the Lenape 49-yard line.

From there, St. Joe mixed runs and passes to set up a field goal try from the Lenape 17 with just one second on the clock. DelGozzo sent a line drive kick that was tipped by LeMay, but managed to slip through the uprights to give the Wildcats the win.

“I can’t say enough about our kids. They never gave up. We were able to run the ball well in the game and we even passed for a few first downs late that helped us. Jimmy [Mantuano] played a great game, what a great effort from him. He’s been our leader all season,” Sacco said.

The game was a back-and-forth affair for the first three quarters.

Lenape scored first on a 52-yard touchdown pass from Jaelin Mims to Javier Best.

DelGozzo’s 30-yard field goal cut the Indians lead to 7-3, and late in the first quarter, Mantuano hit Mahmoud on a 13-yard touchdown pass that gave St. Joe a 10-7 lead.

In the second quarter, Lenape went up 14-10 on another big play, this one a 68-yard pass from Mims to Ty Smith.

The two second half touchdown returns gave Lenape a 28-13 lead, but the Indians were only able to run one play in the fourth quarter, as St. Joe maintained possession to aid its comeback win.

The victory extended St. Joseph’s improbable winning streak to five games.

“We’ve exceeded expectations, even my own,” Sacco said.

“After our first game [a loss at St. Augustine Prep], I didn’t know what to expect [this season].

We were so bad in that game. But we’ve found a way to win every week. It hasn’t always been pretty, but our kids are very confident and playing well,” Sacco said.

During the win streak, St. Joseph has won by a combined 23 points.

This week, the Wildcats will host undefeated Delsea at Rowan University on October 21 at 6 p.m.


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