St. Joseph's diminutive QB plays big role in win

St. Joseph quarterback Anthony Giagunto, right, attempts to break free from Holy Spirit’s Dan Mastromatteo, bottom, and Ethan Gambale on Saturday. Giagunto scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and also intercepted a pass on defense.

HAMMONTON - There were some large young men on the field Saturday in the St. Joseph-Holy Spirit showdown between the area's best high school football teams.

None was bigger than St. Joseph quarterback Anthony Giagunto - at least figuratively.

Future NCAA Division I defensive ends Kaiwan Lewis (6-foot-2, 237 pounds) and Max Valles (6-5, 225) led the Wildcats' line.

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Holy Spirit features future D-I linebacker Dan Mastromatteo (6-3, 233) and lineman Nico D'Angelo (6-4, 288).

Giagunto, a junior who stands only 5-9 and weighs 170, more than held his own against the relative giants as the Wildcats rolled to a 34-7 win.

"I'm that guy," Giagunto said with a smile. "I'm pretty much the smallest guy on the teams, but I've got that big heart and I just keep on pushing every day. I go 150 percent each time."

Giagunto completed 3-of-14 passes for 37 yards Saturday, but the statistics don't reflect his excellent performance. Two of the completions came during third-quarter scoring drives.

His run for a two-point conversion in the first quarter gave St. Joseph the lead for good at 8-7. He later scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to put St. Joseph up 21-7.

Perhaps more importantly, he didn't throw any interceptions.

"I was just trying to make plays happen," Giagunto said. "I try to get it done.

"I try to keep the team up and be a leader."

Giagunto isn't a one-way player either.

He was stellar from his safety position, even intercepting a pass.

Not bad for someone who could barely walk at times in the third and fourth quarter with severe cramps in both calves.

Giagunto usually runs over to the sideline after each play to get the next call. On Saturday, the cramps were so bad at times that other players would get the call.

"They kept telling me to stay in the huddle," Giagunto said.

That toughness impressed Holy Spirit coach Charles Roman.

"Have you seen a better performance than No. 1 (Giagunto) today?" Roman said. "The kid could barely walk."

Rick Mauriello wasn't surprised. Mauriello has coached Giagunto on several teams throughout his youth. He is now a co-defensive coordinator and coaches the quarterbacks at St. Joseph.

"The kid is a warrior," Mauriello said. "He's a leader. He makes our offense go. He's one of the hardest working kids and it shows on the field.

"We kind of pride ourselves in kids like that here. It's the hardest working kids. They don't need to be big as long as they work hard and this is what can happen."

Giagunto has heard all of the short jokes.

People jokingly wonder how he can see over the line.

"I just do what I have to do out there," he said. "I'm short, but it's OK."

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