BRIDGETON - The St. Joseph High School football team didn't encounter any problems Friday night until after their game against Bridgeton.
Minutes after clinching the Cape-Atlantic League United Division championship with a 48-0 victory, the Wildcats returned to the tent that served as their locker room at Bridgeton's midget league field only to discover that several items from players' travel bags were missing.
Senior running back Darryl Smith and a couple of other Wildcats followed coach Paul Sacco to give a Bridgeton police officer a list of the stolen items.
During the game, the Wildcats faced no adversity. St. Joseph (7-0), the top-ranked team in The Press Elite 11, scored on its first six possessions against the Bulldogs (3-4) en route to yet another lopsided win.
"We set a lot of goals for ourselves before the season and one of them was to win the division," Smith said before heading to the locker room. "That kept us from suffering a letdown tonight. We always want to play hard in every game and not play at anyone else's level."
St. Joseph dominated on both sides of the football against a Bridgeton team that had won three straight.
Offensively, the Wildcats rushed for 322 yards and compiled 22 first downs while the defense forced four turnovers while pitching its fifth shutout of the season. St. Joe has outscored its opponents by a combined 354-16.
"Relentless is a real good term to describe them," Bridgeton coach Dave Ellen said. "A lot of those guys were on the (St. Joe) team we beat two years ago (14-6), so I imagine they had some extra incentive. We wanted to try to hang close for the first quarter or so and gain some confidence, but that didn't happen."
Instead, the Wildcats stormed to a 28-0 lead in the first period. Senior running back Eli Pogue opened the scoring with his 10th touchdown of the season, a 10-yard run. Junior Quarterback Anthony Giagunto, Smith and senior running back Kaheem Reynolds also reached the end zone in the opening quarter.
Smith and Reynolds scored two touchdowns apiece before giving way to backups in the fourth quarter. Reynolds rushed for a team-high 88 yards on just 11 carries. Pogue added 71 yards on seven attempts and Smith rushed for 45 yards on seven runs.
"Every game is a big game for us," Reynolds said. "We know that we're the team that everyone wants to beat now, but we're OK with that. We'd rather be the team with the target on our back than the other way around."
The Wildcats' defense was equally impressive. Senior defensive tackle Mike Adams helped hold a dangerous Bulldogs offense to just 32 total yards and two first downs in the first half.
Bridgeton's only legitimate scoring chance came on its first possession of the second half, when it drove to the Wildcats' 5-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs. St. Joseph's backup offense then marched 95 yards. Sophomore fullback Joel Frederico capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown.
"We pride ourselves on our defense," Adams said. "Defense wins games and defense wins championships."
Contact David Weinberg:
St. Joseph 28 13 0 7 - 48
Bridgeton 0 0 0 0 - 0
SJ - Pogue 11 run. (Pass failed)
SJ - Giagunto 9 run. (Pogue run)
SJ - Smith 22 run. (Reynolds run)
SJ - Reynolds 24 run. (Kick failed)
SJ - Smith 1 run. (Kick blocked)
SJ - Reynolds 15 run. (Ordille kick)
SJ - Frederico 2 run. (Ordille kick)
First Downs - SJ 22, B 8
Rushing Yards - SJ 322, B 57
Passing Yards - SJ 45, B 40
Turnovers - SJ 0, B 4
Rushing - Reynolds 11-87, Pogue 7-72, Spencer 8-47, Smith 7-45, Wright 5-42, Frederico 4-14, Giagunto 1-9, Sampson 1-5, Kraugh 1-2, Todoro 2-(-1) SJ; Jackson 9-37, MIller 3-21, Russell 1-4, McClough 2-1, Guitierrez 1-0, Jamison 3-0, Bowman 4-(-3), Hunter 1-(-3) B.
Passing - Giagunto 1-3-45 SJ; Jackson 3-10-34, Hunter 1-2-6 B.
Receiving - Reynolds 1-45 SJ; Bowman 1-14, Profit 1-11, Guitierrez 1-9, Scott 1-6 B.
Records - St. Joseph 7-0; Bridgeton 4-3