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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

St. Joe tops Winslow in season finale

Jahmeer Cartagena (left) breaks a tackle during St. Joseph’s game last week.  Cartagena and the Wildcats ended their 2021 season with a 29-6 win at Winslow Twp. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

WINSLOW TWP.—In a Thanksgiving weekend game that was about as exciting as a green bean casserole, St. Joseph Academy’s football team overcame a sluggish start to defeat host Winslow Twp. 29-6 in the season-finale for the Wildcats.

The victory gave St. Joe a 9-3 record for the season, while Winslow fell to 9-3 as well.

The host Eagles will travel to Rutgers University this weekend to take on Millville in the South Jersey Group 4 Regional Championship game. That game may have factored into how seriously Winslow took last week’s game, as the Eagles opted to sit many of their starters in the second half.

“I talked to their coach [Kenny Scott] and we knew what they were doing [sitting starters]. They knew that we were going to play our kids all four quarters. It’s our last game and we don’t have a whole lot of depth, so the kids played,” St. Joseph coach Paul Sacco said.

As it has several times this season, St. Joseph started slowly. The Wildcats opened the game with a long drive deep into Winslow territory, but it stalled at the Eagles’ 20-yard line.

A fumble ended the Wildcats’ next possession, and following Winslow’s second punt of the first quarter, St. Joe was finally able to put points on the board, taking a 3-0 lead when Trevin DelGozzo connected for a 30-yard field goal early in the second quarter.

The field goal was DelGozzo’s sixth of the season, setting a new single-season record for the Wildcats.

“He [DelGozzo] has been very consistent for us this year. Trevin’s done a great job,” Sacco said.

Winslow grabbed the lead midway through the period, driving 46 yards after a St. Joe punt and scoring on Hamas Duren’s 1-yard run for a 6-3 lead.

St. Joseph answered with its longest drive of the night, covering 70 yards in 14 plays, all runs, and taking the lead when Kevin Mayfield scored on a 2-yard run.

Playing his last game as a Wildcat, Mayfield finished with 127 yards on 27 carries. On the second-quarter touchdown drive, he carried nine times for 44 yards.

“We were so excited to play this game. I’m just sad it’s over. My last game at St. Joe,” Mayfield said.

Carrying a 10-6 lead into halftime sparked the St. Joe crowd, which along with a small group of Winslow fans on the home side, had been quiet for most of the plodding first half.

“We had some chances, but we just made too many mistakes and penalties,” Sacco said.

“I thought we should have had at least one or two more scores,” he said.

There was more action in the second half, as the Wildcats, playing against many of Winslow’s reserves pulled away.

On its first possession of the second half, St. Joe drove 59 yards, mixing the run and the pass and increasing its lead to 16-6 when Cohl Mercado scored on a 4-yard run.

In the fourth quarter, Sacco sent many of the Wildcats reserve players into the game, and Nasir Mahmoud scored on a 43-yard run to give St. Joseph a 23-6 lead. The scoring ended with 1:32 left in the game on a Ty Mercado 3-yard run.

“We knew they [Winslow] were playing next week and they sent in some younger kids in the second half. We don’t have that many kids, so our starters stayed in a little longer. But I thought our kids deserved to play,” Sacco said.

St Joseph’s players were somewhat surprised that the game was even played. There had been some speculation that Winslow would cancel to have more time to prepare for the Regional Championships and also to avoid a costly injury.

“We’re thankful to them for playing. I know our kids wanted to play,” Sacco said.

The win capped a solid season for the Wildcats, who won the West Jersey Football League Continental Division title and reached the semifinals of the Non-Public B state playoffs, losing to eventual state champion Red Bank Catholic.

“After the Red Bank Catholic game, we wanted to end the season with a win and go out on a positive note,” Sacco said.

“With all these kids have been through, it was good for us [to play]. We haven’t had a real home game in two years, we’ve been on the road the whole time. We played a tough schedule with a small roster. Give the kids credit, especially our seniors. They hung in all season long. It’s a good way for these seniors to end,” Sacco said.

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