LINWOOD — The St. Joseph High School football team showed Friday night that even a team that hasn’t lost in more than two years needs a full week of practice.
The Wildcats shook off a sloppy first half to beat Mainland Regional 28-0 in a Cape-Atlantic League American Conference game. St. Joe (8-0), which is ranked No. 1 in The Press Elite 11 and is the conference champion, won its 26th straight game. The Wildcats haven’t lost since a 35-0 defeat to Holy Spirit on Oct. 1, 2010.
This was an unusual week of preparation for the Wildcats because of Hurricane Sandy. They practiced just Wednesday and Thursday and some players didn’t even attend those practices because roads were closed or their homes didn’t have electricity.
The hectic week of preparation showed in the first two quarters.
St. Joe led just 7-0 at halftime. The Wildcats committed six penalties for 65 yards in the first half and had two touchdowns negated by penalties.
“We don’t usually get time off,” St. Joe running back and defensive back Miles Pease said. “We needed the first (half) to get started. A 7-0 (lead) at halftime isn’t good for us. We’re a state championship-type team. We had to do better.”
The Wildcats dominated the second half.
“We knew we had to come out in the second half and score some points and open things up,” St. Joe coach Paul Sacco said. “You have to give Mainland credit. They play hard, especially on defense. They tackle hard.”
St. Joe immediately grabbed the second-half momentum when Pease intercepted a Mainland Regional pass on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter.
Two plays later, Wildcats quarterback Anthony Giagunto threw a pass in the flat to Pease, who weaved his way through the Mainland defense for a 50-yard touchdown to put the Wildcats up 14-0.
Two of St. Joe’s newest players connected for a touchdown on St. Joe’s next possession.
Running back C.J. LaFragola threw 40-yard option pass to wide receiver Chris Gabor for a touchdown. Both players transferred to St. Joe after the season started — LaFragola from Holy Spirit where he was the quarterback and Gabor from Ocean City.
Mainland struggled throughout the game to gain any yards against the St. Joe defense. The Mustangs finished with 31 rushing yards and 16 passing yards.
St. Joe defensive linemen Charles Cade and Roy Lucas combined for a sack. Cade had two more tackles for losses and defensive lineman Kevin Goldsmith also had two tackles for losses.
If there was a team for St. Joe to play after limited practice it was Mainland. Both the Mustangs and the Wildcats run the Wing-T offense.
“We know that offense in and out,” Lucas said. “We know every formation, every play.”
In addition to Friday’s contest, only one other local high school football game will be played this weekend. Lower Cape May Regional plays at Cedar Creek at 2 p.m. today in Egg Harbor City. The storm postponed all other games to next week.
After their win, the Wildcats seemed glad this week is behind them.
“We spend so much time with our players that (even without a full week of practice) we were able to come out here and piece things together,” Sacco said.
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