The St. Joseph High School team finds itself in a position it hasn't been in since October 2010: The Wildcats must bounce back from a defeat.
St. Joe's 26-game winning streak ended with a 14-6 loss to Hammonton the night before Thanksgiving. That was St. Joe's first defeat since a 35-0 loss to Holy Spirit on Oct. 1, 2010.
The Wildcats will try to start a new winning streak when they host Hudson Catholic in a state Non-Public I semifinal at 1 p.m. Saturday. St. Joe seeks its fourth straight state title and 15th overall since the state Non-Public playoffs began in 1993.
To advance to another state final, St. Joe will have to slow a player with one of the best first names of anyone playing New Jersey high school football: Running back Champion Smith leads Hudson Catholic.
Key players for Hudson Catholic: Champion Smith, RB; Kevin Albert, QB; Curtis Mullins, WR; Jalen Carter, RB.
Key players for St. Joseph: Anthony Giagunto, QB/DB, 66-of-117 for 876 yards and 10 touchdowns; Cody Sampson, RB, 138 carries for 791 yards; Miles Pease, RB/DB, 110 carries for 521 yards, and four interceptions on defense; Roy Lucas, OL/DL; Kevin Goldsmith, DL, 66 tackles and four sacks; Charles Cade, DL, nine sacks.
Keys to victory: St. Joe needs to refocus after the Hammonton loss and get back to the way it played early in the season. The Wildcats did not play that crisply in wins over St. Augustine Prep and Mainland Regional before the Hammonton defeat. On defense, St. Joe needs to stay disciplined and prevent big plays.