HAMMONTON - After each game, bags of frozen peas sit piled in the freezer of St. Joseph High School football lineman Roy Lucas.
The senior doesn't add them to his post-game meal. He uses them to ice down bumps, bruises and sore muscles.
Lucas and the rest of the Wildcats probably needed the frozen vegetables more than ever Saturday.
St. Joe survived another physical contest and beat Egg Harbor Township 24-11 in a Cape-Atlantic League American Conference game Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats (4-0) are No. 1 in The Press Elite 11 and have won 22 straight dating back to 2010.
St. Joe quarterback Anthony Giagunto threw two touchdown passes Saturday. But what stood out about the game was how hard-hitting the contest was.
Several collisions drew both roars and cringes from the crowd. St. Joe players Robert Thompson (cornerback/wide receiver) and Luke Ordille (tight end/linebacker) left with injuries.
"It was crazy," Lucas said. "They're hard-nosed kids on that team, but at St. Joe that's how we are too."
Yards were tough to come by. EHT rushed for 71 yards and St. Joe for 114.
"It was good competition," St. Joe lineman Kevin Goldsmith said. "They flew to the ball. We just had to answer back. We stumbled a couple of times, but we got back in it."
EHT (2-2) established itself as a conference contender when it came from behind to upset Hammonton 31-28 on Sept. 21.
The Eagles seemed poised for another comeback after falling behind St. Joe 14-0.
EHT grabbed the momentum when it drove 44 yards in four plays for a Tim Mason 35-yard field goal. The kick, which came on the final snap of the first half, cut St. Joe's lead to 14-3.
EHT controlled most of the third quarter. Eagles defensive back Patrick Dawson picked off a pass on St. Joe's first possession. EHT linebacker Matt Clayton recovered a fumble on St. Joe's second possession. But the Eagles couldn't convert those turnovers into points.
"We tell our kids all the time: It's about effort, toughness and discipline and right now discipline is what we lack," EHT coach Tony DeRosa said. "We had too many penalties. We shot ourselves in the foot. We can't make those mistakes."
Meanwhile, St. Joe took advantage of EHT miscues.
Goldsmith recovered a fumble at the EHT 24-yard line. Three plays later, Giagunto threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Rocco Ordille to put the Wildcats ahead 21-3 with 4 minutes, 50 seconds left in the game.
St. Joe also didn't let injuries slow it down.
Laquay Brown replaced Luke Ordille at tight end after Ordille went to the sidelines in the fourth quarter after a hard hit.
The Wildcats clinched the victory when Giagunto completed a 45-yard pass to Brown to give the Wildcats the ball at the EHT 6-yard line. Mark Ryker then kicked a 23-yard field goal to give St. Joe a 13-point advantage with 1:20 left in the game.
St. Joe players and coaches have a word to describe a backup coming in to make a big play.
"Coach (Paul Sacco) calls that St. Joe 'magic,' " Lucas said.
St. Joe is playing probably the toughest regular-season schedule in school history now that it's playing local public schools with large enrollments.
As a result, the Wildcats' victory celebrations are a bit more muted.
"We go home and ice up," Lucas said.
Contact Michael McGarry:
Egg Harbor Township 0 3 0 8 - 11
St. Joseph 7 7 0 10 - 24
SJ- Sampson 4 run (Ryker kick)
SJ- Thompson 12 pass from Giagunto (Ryker kick)
EHT- Mason 35 FG
SJ- R. Ordille 8 pass from Giagunto (Ryker kick)
EHT- Smith 74 pass from Doughty (Rice run)
SJ- Ryker 23 FG
Rushing- Rice 6-42 EHT. Mi. Pease 16-30 SJ.
Passing- Doughty 8-21-1-138 EHT. Giagunto 11-14-1-138 SJ.
Receiving- Smith 2-79 EHT. R. Ordille 3-34 SJ.
Records- EHT 2-2; St. Joseph 4-0