St. Joseph Academy Football Team Should Be Among South Jersey’s Best

St. Joseph Academy Football Team Should Be Among South Jersey’s Best
St. Joseph’s of Hammonton has a new name and a new lease on life. The school, which was among five officially closed by the Camden Diocese as of June 30, will be open in the fall as St. Joseph Academy.
 
Athletically, the school has long been known as having among the top football programs in South Jersey. Long-time coach Paul Sacco has been among the key people who have worked tirelessly to keep the school open.
 
It will be moving to a new building in Hammonton and is looking for a new field, but the same old spirit remains. 
 
“I guess God has a plan,” said Sacco, who is a 1975 graduate of the school. “It has been a tough road for families and kids.”
 
He said that the resiliency that has been such a big part of the school is what enabled it to remain open.
 
“I was very proud of our group,” he said. “We only lost maybe one player. We asked our kids to stay and give some time and I don’t know how much more you could ask. We went to the wire and still have work to do.”
 
The original goal was to have 160 students grades 9-12 to keep the school open. Sacco says the number is at 155 and that could still grow.
 
“We have had inquiries from kids about transferring in,” Sacco said.
 
Right now, securing a field is among the tasks. Sacco said it’s possible his team could be playing on the road this year.
 
Then again, in these times of COVID-19, playing at all will be an accomplishment.
 
The NJSIAA has pushed back the start of the high school football season to Oct. 2, but as with everything in dealing with the coronavirus, it is fluid. 
 
By Aug. 28, the NJSIAA says it should have a better handle whether there will be high school sports in the fall. 
 
If that is the case, then St. Joseph should again be among the top teams in South Jersey.
 
The Wildcats have 45 players on the roster according to Sacco and that includes a strong senior class.
 
How dominant has the football team been?
 
Since the advent of NJSIAA playoffs in 1974, St. Joseph has qualified for the playoffs 40 times and has won 27 South Jersey or state titles.
 
Sacco is the all-time winningest coach in South Jersey history with a record of 335-65-5. Last year the Wildcats went 9-2 and advanced to the state Non-Public Group 2 final before falling to Holy Spirit. Both teams are considered viable state title threats again this season.
 
St. Joseph will look at Holy Cross Academy in Delran as a school that was closed by the diocese (of Trenton) and still remained open. Formerly Holy Cross, the school is entering its third year of operating as Holy Cross Academy.
 
Dealing with all the issues of COVID-19 has been strenuous for all schools, but just imagine the uncertainty that St. Joseph Academy went through. 
 
It has taken a lot of mental toughness to keep battling, but that type of spirit typifies what the school is all about and leading the way is Sacco, who the minute it was announced that the school was closing, refused to give in and has helped lead an impressive effort to keep the school open.

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Author: Marc Narducci

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