Big Ending for St. Joseph

Big Ending for St. Joseph

While St. Joseph went through some tough times earlier this year, the Wildcats ended the season in familiar fashion as a state football champion.

The Wildcats capped their season with 41-22 win over rival Holy Spirit at MetLife Stadium.

It is a team that had some explosive players led by junior running back Jada Byers, one of the best in the state. Even though Byers is known for his running skill, in the state title win he scored three touchdowns, two on long passes from sophomore Jayden Shertel.

Byers is one of the top offensive players in the state and he also is underrated as a defensive back.

Also in the state title game sophomore Ahmad Ross had the best game of his young career with eight carries for 135 yards and two TDs. A hard-hitting linebacker, Ross also returned an interception for a 15-yard touchdown for the game’s first score.

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That capped a 10-2 season for a Wildcats team that ended No. 3 in South Jersey in the final Philadelphia Inquirer Top 25.

The expectations were so high, that the Wildcats might have been disappointed by the season, which was held together after a difficult two weeks stretch.

The Wildcats were the consensus No. 1 team in South Jersey in 2017, going 12-0. Then St. Joseph’s began this season 4-0, having outscored teams, 172-38.

Then the Wildcats lost a 22-15 home game to Haddonfield, in what some considered a major upset. At the time, it might have been, but as Haddonfield went through the season, the Bulldogs showed that they deserved to replace St. Joseph’s as the No. 1 team in South Jersey.

The next week, the Wildcats got by a solid Vineland team, 21-7 and then there was a controversial and well-documented social media episode that caused the school to suspend coach Paul Sacco and two starters for two weeks.

The next game, after that incident, St. Joseph’s was crushed 51-0 at home, by West Deptford. That is to take nothing away from West Deptford, a team that gave Haddonfield all it could handle the week before in a 27-21 loss to the Bulldogs.

That said, St. Joseph realizes it should lose to no team by 51 points, but the Wildcats weren’t able to put all the controversy behind them.

After that loss, the Wildcats took off again, beginning with a 33-14 win over Timber Creek in a game Shertel threw three TD passes.

The next week the Wildcats won a hard-fought 28-14 decision over Holy Spirit. Both teams were well aware that they could very likely meet again in the postseason.

St. Joseph had not trouble winning its first two playoff games, beating Immaculata and Immaculate Conception by a combined 108-6 score.

Then came the rematch with Holy Spirit in the state final, which was a highly competitive game. St. Joseph led just 26-22 before pulling away late in the game.

St. Joseph must replace its offensive line, but with a great sophomore class along with Byers and some talented juniors, the Wildcats should be among the top teams in South Jersey next year. 

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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