St. Joseph Hammonton Battled through Adversity for Another Successful Football Season

by Marc Narducci | Dec 11, 2020
St. Joseph Hammonton Battled through Adversity for Another Successful Football Season
St. Joseph of Hammonton entered the school year with many questions, and that isn’t even counting dealing with COVID-19.  
That’s because on April 17, the Camden Dioceses announced that five schools would be closing due to declining enrollment, including St. Joseph.  
It was a gut-punch to all the people involved at St. Joseph’s, which athletically, is known best for its excellence in football.  
Coach Paul Sacco is the winningest coach in South Jersey history with a 342-67-5 career record. This year despite all the uncertainty, first COVID and then with the school’s status, the Wildcats were able to go 7-2 by playing another ambitious schedule. 
The Wildcats had to move to different practice fields during the season and had to play their home games at Buena High School.  
“We were looking for fields to practice on and for having no field and for a while no program and what the kids went through, these kids did an unbelievable job,” Sacco said.  
Football wise, the program finished with 36 players.  
St. Joseph opened the season with an 18-6 loss to a Holy Spirit team that ended as the consensus No. 1 team in South Jersey. 
This was a tight game with Holy Spirit clinging to a 12-6 fourth quarter lead before scoring an insurance touchdown.  
The other loss was a 12-7 defeat to Ocean City in a tight defensive affair.  
After that loss, the Wildcats won their final two games, a 13-0 win over city rival Hammonton and a 51-31 victory against Burlington Township. 
Junior Ja’son Prevard started at quarterback those final two games and gave a good indication on what the Wildcats opponents will see next season. 
In those two games he completed 14 for 24 for 294 yards and two touchdowns. 
“He was unbelievable those last two games,” Sacco said. 
Besides the uncertainty of the school’s status during the summer, not having a home field and dealing with all the difficulties of COVID, the Wildcats had to compete with a relatively young team. 
Only six seniors finished the season. Those six were wide receiver, cornerback Owen Horan, defensive lineman Ethan Hunt, guard-linebacker Tyler Paige, tight end-defensive end Keyshon Griffin, running backs-linebacker Ahmad Ross and linebacker-defensive end-offensive lineman Chase Lomax.  
Griffin, who has committed to Rutgers, had 42 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss and three sacks.  
Lomax, who is headed to Long Island University, had 41 tackles, including 11 tackles for loss and three sacks.  
Ross, who is headed to West Point, had 64 tackles, including 14 tackles for loss, two sacks and two interceptions. He was also the offensive leader, rushing for 1,112 yards (6.7 avg.) and 15 touchdowns.  
Junior wide receiver-cornerback Jahqir Haley led the state with 10 interceptions. He also had 11 receptions for 161 yards and a score.  
Haley was named to first-team all-state by the USA Today Network while Ross and Lomax were second-team selections. 
 Among other key contributors were junior running back-safety Cohl Mercado and junior two-way lineman Z’amir Thomas.  
Mercado rushed for 619 yards (6.0 avg.) and seven touchdowns. He also contributed 31 tackles and two interceptions.  
Thomas had 53 tackles, including 12 tackles for loss and three sacks.  
With a strong junior class and several impressive underclassmen, look for St. Joseph to be among the elite teams in South Jersey next season. 
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Author: Marc Narducci

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