The St. Joseph High School football team heard the questions during the offseason.

In 2016, the Wildcats finished 7-4 and saw their streak of seven straight state titles end. Mater Dei beat St. Joe 26-0 in the state semifinals.

The loss caused some South Jersey high school football observers to wonder how long it would take the Wildcats to get back to the top — if they got back at all. Would Mater Dei replace St. Joe as the state’s top small-school parochial program?

“I could see why people would have said this will be a turn for the worse,” St. Joe coach Paul Sacco said.

It turned out the Wildcats were better than ever in 2017.

They finished 12-0 for the first time in school history and won the state Non-Public II title. The Wildcats are The Press Male Athletes of the Fall.

St. Joe scored a school-record 545 points. Senior fullback and linebacker Qwahsin Townsel rushed 236 times for 1,616 yards and 30 TDs. Sophomore running back Jada Byers rushed for 1,554 yards and returned four punts for scores. The Wildcats allowed an average of 9.8 points. Defensive linemen Sencere Tapp, Brad Lomax and Sean Morris combined to make 75 tackles for losses.

“We wanted to quiet all the doubters,” Townsel said. “Everybody was saying the school was going to close, St. Joe would never be back to a state championship. We came out with a chip on our shoulder to prove everybody wrong.”

St. Joe’s perfect season highlighted an outstanding fall by Press-area male athletes.


Mainland Regional boys soccer team

Matt Stellitano lifted the Mainland Regional High School soccer team into its first state final appearance with both hands and both feet.

Mainland’s senior goalkeeper made several huge saves and even scored on a penalty kick as the Mustangs beat Toms River South 7-6 in penalty kicks on Nov. 14 in a thrilling, marathon state Group III semifinal at Toms River North High School.

The victory highlighted Mainland’s season. Mainland lost in the state final to West Morris Mendham but the senior-dominated Mustangs still made history.

Many of the Mainland soccer players grew up playing together since they were 7 or 8.

“That senior class is unbelievable,” Mainland coach Chris Meade said. “You have 12 guys who dedicated their lives to soccer.”


Berger emerges as CAL’s best

Will Berger had a cross country season to remember.

The Lower Cape May Regional senior won the Cape May County and CAL titles.

Berger was overshadowed by some of his Caper Tiger teammates the past few seasons.

But Berger immediately showed he was one of this fall’s best with a win at the South jersey Shootout in early September.

It was nice to get my name out there and get some of my own wins,” said Berger, who was The Press Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year. “And getting as many (wins) as I did was really great.”


P’ville football honors Coach Walsh

The captains of the Pleasantville High School football team walked wore some unusual attire for the coin flip against Holy Spirit on Oct. 6.

The Greyhounds wore Walshy’s Warriors shirts in honor of Holy Spirit assistant coach Bill Walsh, who is battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Pleasantville assistant Chris Mancuso excelled at running back and linebacker for Holy Spirit and as a senior was a captain of the 2007 Spartans team that won the state Non-Public III title. Walsh was the head coach of that team.

Several of Spirit’s opponents honored Walsh before games this season, but no tribute stirred the emotions like Pleasantville’s.

Pleasantville lost to Spirit 36-24 that night, but this was a season of resurgence for the Greyhounds.

They finished 7-2 for their first winning season since 2003. They made the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

Those achievements were noteworthy, but Pleasantville showed the spirit of its program when it honored Walsh.


Asadu makes AC soccer history

Shadrach Asadu moved to the United States from Ghana when he was in the eighth grade.

This fall, he made his mark on Atlantic City and CAL soccer.

The Vikings senior scored 34 goals, running away with the league scoring title. Asadu’s 34 goals broke Atlantic City’s single-season record held by Akwasi Adu (31 goals in 2012). He also led the team with 15 assists. That accounts for 49 of the Vikings’ program-record 71 goals. Asadu finished his career with a school-record 81 goals.

Atlantic City finished 17-4-1 and beat top-seeded Jackson Memorial 2-1 in the South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals. The Vikings lost to Rancocas Valley 2-1 in the semifinals, but it was still one of the best seasons in school history.

“I felt like we were rewarded for everything this year,” said Asadu, who was The Press Boys Soccer Player of the Year. “I felt pretty blessed to be here with my teammates. We showed the hard work we put in, and I was rewarded as the best player.”

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Contact: 609-272-7209

MMcGarry@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressMcGarry

I've covered high school sports and variety of other events and teams - including the ShopRite LPGA Classic and the Phillies - since 1993.

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