South Jersey Football Game of the Week: St. Joseph Academy vs. Holy Spirit

by Marc Narducci | Sep 29, 2020
South Jersey Football Game of the Week: St. Joseph Academy vs. Holy Spirit
Matchup: Holy Spirit vs. St. Joseph Academy 
 
When: Friday, Oct. 2, 7 p.m. at Buena High. (St. Joseph is playing its homes games at Buena this season).
 
Background: These two teams have had one of the better recent rivalries in South Jersey. Last year St. Joseph beat Holy Spirit, 22-19 in the regular season. Spirit came back to stun St. Joseph, 38-0 in the Non-Public Group 2 final. Current senior Patrick Smith rushed for 68 yards and 2 TDs on 15 carries in the championship. In 2018, St. Joseph won twice against the Spartans, 28-14 in the regular season and 41-22 in the championship. 
 
This was an eventful offseason for St. Joseph, which was told by the Camden Diocese that it would close as of this past June. The school is now St. Joseph Academy and will operate privately from the Diocese. 
 
Coaches: Holy Spirit, A.J. Russo (37-20). St. Joseph, Paul Sacco (336-65-5). 
 
Key players: Smith will lead another strong Holy Spirit rushing attack. He is among South Jersey’s top backs and has earned a scholarship to Colorado State. Smith is also a special teams threat, having returned three kickoffs for touchdowns last season. He should get more caries this year with the graduation of another top back, Elijah Gray. Junior quarterback Trevor Cohen returns to run the offense. Jr. LB Michael Francisco and Sr. DB Devin Lee are among the key returning players on defense. 
 
St. Joseph also returns an experienced group led by Sr. TE-DE Keshon Griffin, a Rutgers commit. Griffin is more known for defense, with 51 tackles, including 11 tackles for loss and six sacks. A player who is all over the field, Griffin had one interception, four passes defensed, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Griffin also had 11 receptions for 194 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to being a fine blocker. 
 
Sr. Jayden Shertel returns for his third season as starting QB. Last season he completed 63.9 percent of his passes for 1,588 yards and 15 TDs. Jr. LB Tyler Paige had 82 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 1 interception. 
 
Key to the game: Even though both teams have experienced QBs, the team that runs the ball better will be the likely winner. 

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Outcome:
It would not be surprising if either team won this game. Both have the ability to be among the Top 10 teams in South Jersey. It is very difficult to beat St. Joseph’s two games in a row. Holy Spirit has the ability to do so, but the Wildcats will be playing with a huge chip on their shoulder. They should be favored in a game that should be much closer than last year’s championship game. 

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Author: Marc Narducci

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