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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

St. Joseph drops opener at St. Augustine

THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940. St. Joseph’s James Steel juggles a pass late in the Wildcats season-opening game against St. Augustine Prep last week.

RICHLAND—Poor execution on both sides of the line of scrimmage proved costly for St. Joseph Academy’s football team last week, as the Wildcats were defeated by rival St.

Augustine Prep 30-10.

St. Joe was never in the game, falling behind early as the Prep was able to take advantage of some sloppy play by the Wildcats.

“We didn’t do much right tonight,” St. Joseph coach Paul Sacco said.

“They’re a good football team and you just can’t play the way we did tonight and expect to beat a team like that,” he said.

The game marked the beginning of Sacco’s final season at St. Joseph. Last month, the longtime coach announced that he will leave the program at the end of the season.

Playing against one of their biggest rivals, the Wildcats struggled to move the football on offense and had a tough time keeping the Hermits offense under control.

“We looked bad out there. I can’t remember a game where we looked so confused. We were out of position a lot and they took advantage of that,” Sacco said.

St. Augustine entered the game seeking its first victory of the season. The Hermits dropped their season-opener to St. Peter’s Prep 41-7.

“They [St. Peter’s Prep] are a totally different animal. They’re a great high school football team. We’re very young and really didn’t know what to expect tonight. Our kids came in very hungry and they were able to play well,” St. Augustine Prep coach Pete Lancetta said.

The Prep grabbed the lead early in the game when a snap on a St. Joseph punt got past Trevin DelGozzo, who fell on the ball in the Wildcats’ end zone to give the Hermits a 2-0 lead.

On its first drive of the night, St. Augustine marched 82-yards in 14-plays, most on the ground, and scored on an 11-yard run from Ryan Gambill.

Most of the damage on the drive was done by St. Augustine running back Tristan McLeer, who carried the ball nine times for 27 yards.

“He [McLeer] runs hard. We leaned on him tonight and he responded,” Lancetta said.

An 80-yard kickoff return by Jamaad Davis set St. Joe up at the Prep 12-yard line, but the Wildcats fell short of the end zone on their ensuing drive, settling for a 26-yard field goal from DelGozzo that cut the Hermits lead to 9-3.

St. Augustine struck quickly for its next score, as Terrin Walker caught a short pass near the Hermits sideline from Rory Friel, broke two tackles and raced 85-yards for a touchdown and a 16-3 St. Augustine lead.

Poor tackling plagued St. Joseph throughout the game, as St. Augustine players were able to gain far too many yards after initial contact.

“We didn’t tackle and that’s surprising because we worked so much on that in practice,” Sacco said.

The scored stayed 16-3 until early in the third quarter when St. Augustine opened the second half with a two-play drive capped by McLeer’s 6-yard touchdown run.

While the Prep was moving the ball well, St. Joe was struggling to keep Hermits’ defenders out of its backfield. Many Wildcats rush attempts were stopped behind the line of scrimmage and quarterback Jimmy Mantuano was rushed on several pass attempts.

“You have to block. It’s that simple. We didn’t do that tonight,” Sacco said.

St. Joe’s first three drives of the second half ended in punts and its fourth was stopped when McLeer intercepted a Mantuano pass near midfield.

That turnover led to the final score of the game for the Hermits, a 19-yard touchdown run by Na’Cire Christmas.

St. Joe’s final points of the game came late in the fourth quarter when Richard Chandler broke free for a 59-yard touchdown run.

“I don’t know what happened tonight. We just didn’t execute. This is a simple game. If you block and you tackle, you’ll be successful. We didn’t do either tonight and you saw what happened. It’s frustrating because we really should have played much better. We had two weeks to prepare and we come out and play like that. We just have to get back at it tomorrow,” Sacco said.

St. Joe will face another tough rivalry game this week when it travels to Holy Spirit. The Spartans are off to a 2-0 start this year.

“They’re playing very well. We’ll see what happens,” Sacco said.

St. Joseph plays at Holy Spirit on September 9 at 6 p.m.


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