• Dan Russoman

St. Joseph holds on for win at Ocean City


THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940. Ty Mercado heads toward the sideline after a short gain late in St. Joseph’s win at Ocean City last week.

OCEAN CITY—After using big plays and late game heroics to post three-straight wins, St. Joseph Academy’s football team used a more traditional approach in a 7-3 victory at Ocean City last week.


The Wildcats went to their traditional formula of running the ball and playing strong defense to earn their fourth-consecutive win.


“That’s St. Joe football,” Wildcats head coach Paul Sacco said.


“It was nice to see us run well because we’ve been struggling this season,” Sacco said.

St. Joe gained a season-high 150 yards rushing last week, gaining yards on the edges and opening up chances for its passing game.


“We’re at our best when we can run the football. We’ve had some trouble doing that and we’ve had to pass a lot this year, but tonight I thought we were able to move the ball on the ground and it helped us,” Sacco said.


Senior quarterback Jimmy Mantuano, who finished the night 5-of-9 for 115 yards and a touchdown, agreed.


“It was great for us to run well tonight. We’ve been throwing a lot more than I ever expected this season, and we’ve been good with the pass, but that’s not St. Joe football. We’re built to run the ball, so it was good for us to be able to get yards with the run tonight,” Mantuano said.


Last week’s game featured two of the West Jersey Football League’s more interesting teams.

St. Joe has a young roster that has been able to make just enough plays to win games.


Ocean City is reluctant to call this a rebuilding year, but the Red Raiders have struggled to put points on the scoreboard. Last week’s loss was Ocean City’s fourth-straight.


“We didn’t know what to expect tonight. They [Ocean City] are well-coached and we knew they’d be prepared. They made a few mistakes and we caught a few breaks but it was a close game and we expected that,” Sacco said.


After a scoreless first quarter, Ocean City drove to the St. Joseph 10-yard line but turned the ball over when the Raiders failed to convert on fourth-and-1.


St. Joe responded with its lone scoring drive of the night.


Mantuano’s 9-yard run and an Ocean City penalty moved the Wildcats into Raiders’ territory and with 7:41 left in the half, Mantuano hit a wide open Zach Cruet for a 43-yard touchdown pass that gave St. Joe a 7-0 lead.


Ocean City followed with its only points, driving 72 yards in 10 plays before settling for a 25-yard field goal from Ryder Hay.


St. Joe opened the third quarter with a solid drive, mixing runs and short completions to reach the Ocean City 14 yard line where a 35-yard Trevin DelGozzo field goal attempt was wide to the right.


St. Joseph’s defense was able to control Ocean City’s run game and put just enough pressure on the quarterback to hold the Raiders out of the end zone. A late Ocean City drive ended with Nasir Mahmoud’s interception.


“I thought we did a great job defensively. They have some weapons on offense, but we made plays when we needed to and held them to just three points,” Sacco said.

The win was St. Joe’s fourth-straight.


“I think people doubt us a little bit because we have a lot of younger guys, but we’re a really resilient team and we showed that tonight. There were times we had our backs to the wall, but we made plays when we had to make plays and the defense held on. We ran the ball and the offensive line fought all night. Four in-a-row. We’re gutting it out and it shows how tough a team we are,” Mantuano said.


“You know what? I give our kids credit. We’re very young, not much experience. We’re not the biggest group or the fastest, but they’ve worked hard and come up with plays when we need them. They frustrate me sometimes, but we’re finding a way to win every week,” Sacco said.


This week, St. Joe plays at Lenape on October 14 at 7 p.m.


“It doesn’t get any easier. They [Lenape] will be ready. I just hope we are, too,” Sacco said.