The St. Joseph High School football players don't say much.
That's fine with Wildcats coach Paul Sacco.
"They just work," Sacco said. "They want to get better. They know they have to get better."
St. Joe is the defending Cape-Atlantic League American Conference and state Non-Public I champion.
The Wildcats should again contend for both those titles. St. Joe has won four straight state titles.
But this season St. Joe is young. The Wildcats will play mostly sophomores and juniors.
But what they lack in experience they make up for with talent.
"Our goal is to get better each week," Sacco said. "We tell our kids we can only get better."
Many of the Wildcats' young players were role players last season. This season they have to play key roles.
"We're not using inexperience as an excuse," St. Joe junior running back Rocco Ordille said. "We're going to be prepared."
Ordille (59 carries for 349 yards and six touchdowns last season) and senior Cody Sampson (155 carries for 882 yards and 10 touchdowns) will be the featured backs in St. Joe's Wing-T offense.
Ordille finished third in the 100-meter dash at the outdoor track and field Meet of Champions last spring.
C.J. LaFragola, a junior, and sophomore Salaam Horne both played quarterback in the preseason. Both are standouts. Horne showed the ability to break the big play.
If Horne starts at quarterback, LaFragola will shift to fullback, where he should be one of the Cape-Atlantic League's best.
Salaam's twin brother A'Laam Horne also seems poised for a big season. A'Laam will play defensive back, running back and wide receiver. The twins have the potential to be dynamic players.
Junior Justin Kennedy and senior LaQuay Brown lead the defensive line.
The offensive line is inexperienced but has plenty of potential with sophomore Derek Lomax at center.
"The season falls a lot on the young kids," Sacco said. "It's hard but we're not going to make excuses for them."
St. Joe cannot ease into the season. The Wildcats' first three games - at Absegami, at Holy Spirit and home vs. Millville – are against three playoff teams.
"Those first three games will be so key for us," Sacco said. "They will be the key to how well we're going to do."
Contact Michael McGarry:
QCoach: Paul Sacco (31 years, 266-55-5)
League/Group: Cape-Atlantic League American Conference/state Non-Public I
Last season's record: 10-1
Playoff appearances: 34
Playoff record: 38-12
2013 Prediction: Contender – The Wildcats are young but they are still among the elite in South Jersey and the favorite to win the state Non-Public I title.
Key game: Sept. 20 at Holy Spirit – This is always one of the best games in South Jersey. The contest goes a long way toward defining the season for both teams. St. Joe won 7-0 last year.
Key players: Salaam Horne, So., QB/RB/DB, 5-10, 165; C.J. LaFragola, Jr., QB/FB/LB, 5-11, 185; Chris Gabor, Sr., WR/DB, 6-2, 175; Nick Santore, Jr., WR/DB, 5-10, 145; Jonathan Ryker, So., K/WR/DB, 5-10, 145; Chris Carey, So., TE/DE, 6-2, 200; Javon Rankin, Sr., RB/DB, 5-10, 180; Cody Sampson, Sr., RB/DB, 5-10, 180; A'Laam Horne, So., RB/DB, 5-10, 160; Ricardo Quirindongo, Jr., WR/DB, 6-1, 175; Rocco Ordille, Jr., RB/DB, 5-10, 170; LaQuay Brown, Sr., TE/DE, 6-4, 210; Sky Glenn, Sr., OL/DL, 6-3, 250; Justin Kennedy, Jr., OL/DL, 6-4, 220; Derek Lomas, So., C/DT, 6-4, 245; Michael Merlino, Jr., FB/NG, 5-9, 205; Joseph Greer, Jr., OL, 6-3, 220; Christian Snowden, Jr., OL/DL, 5-10, 215; Max Buerklin, Jr., DL, 5-9, 190; Knikeem Lewis, Jr., OL/DL, 6-3, 255;