BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP — Carnell Davis wanted to make a good first impression Friday night.
It didn’t take him long.
The junior wide receiver made his St. Augustine Prep debut and caught his first touchdown pass less than seven minutes into the game.
He finished with seven catches for 178 yards and three touchdowns as the Hermits beat Ocean City 35-3 in a West Jersey Football League interdivision game.
“They didn’t know if I could make plays or not,” Davis said of his teammates. “I had to show them that they could rely on me. If you need a big play, I can come through. That’s what I did tonight.”
Davis played at Absegami last season He moved to Melbourne, Florida, last December and lived with his aunt for eight months. He played spring football at Eau Gallie High School in Florida, where colleges spotted him. Davis moved back to New Jersey in July for family reasons and enrolled in St. Augustine.
He is now one of New Jersey’s top college prospects with 23 NCAA Division I scholarship offers from schools, including Auburn, Oregon, Maryland and Rutgers.
Davis wasn’t the only transfer to become eligible for the Hermits on Friday. Sophomore running back Kanye Udoh, a transfer from St. Joseph, carried 19 times for 117 yards.
The two transfers weren’t the Hermits’ only standouts.
On defense, Ken Selby intercepted a pass, and Isaiah Raikes, Angelo Federa and Brady Small each made a tackle for a loss.
“A lot of guys are contributing,” Hermits coach Pete Lancetta. “That’s good. That’s healthy for the program.”
St. Augustine (2-3) is ranked No. 7 in The Press Elite 11, while Ocean City (4-1) is ranked No. 11. Fans filled the home and visiting bleachers on a cool, clear night to watch one of the weekend’s most anticipated games.
The Red Raiders had outscored their first four opponents 170-6, but those opponents had a combined record of 2-12.
Friday was viewed as a credibility test for Ocean City. Meanwhile, the Hermits needed a win to boost its state Non-Public IV playoff seeding.
Ocean City started fast.
Red Raiders linebacker Brad Jamison drew roars from the Ocean City fans when he delivered a hard hit on a St. Augustine ball carrier on the first play from scrimmage.
The Red Raiders played well and physically matched the Hermits
But Davis changed the game with his big-play ability. Ocean City focused on stopping the St. Augustine running game. That gave Davis an advantage on the outside.
His first touchdown came on a third-and-13 play. He sprinted past a defender, slowed slightly, caught the ball at the Ocean City 36 and sprinted untouched to the end zone to give St. Augustine a 7-0 lead with 5 minutes, 50 seconds left in the first quarter.
“I was a little nervous before the game,” he said. “I was like, ‘What if I drop the big ball?’ But I caught the (first) one, and the rest came easy.”
Davis’ second touchdown made it 14-3 Hermits with 5:03 left in the second quarter.
He faked an out pattern and then sprinted past a defender into the open. Davis caught the ball in stride while crossing the goal line for a 32-yard score.
Davis added another touchdown catch in the third quarter. His only miscue came on defense. He dropped what should have been a sure interception in the third quarter.
“I can’t catch interceptions,” Davis said with a laugh. “It’s something. I can’t catch interceptions.”
With Davis and Udoh, the Hermits are a much more complete, balanced and dynamic offensive team.
The Hermits finished with 175 rushing and 174 passing yards Friday.
Both Davis and Udoh had to sit the Hermits’ first four games, under the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association transfer rules.
“It was really hard to watch,” Davis said, “but now I’m here. It was great. I felt like I’ve been here for four years.”
Ocean City; 0 3 0 0 — 3
St. Augustine; 7 14 14 — 35
SA — Davis 60 pass from Leyman (Snyder kick)
OC — McGonigle 24 field goal
SA — Davis 32 pass from Leyman (Snyder kick)
SA — Raikes 2 run (Snyder kick)
SA — Pao 9 run (Snyder kick)
SA — Davis 35 pass from McLeer (Snyder kick)
Rushing — OC. Wilson 14-61; SA. Udoh 19-117
Passing — OC. Repetti 5-22-1-73; SA. Leyman 7-11-0-139
Receiving — OC. Schneider 2-22; SA. Davis 7-178
Records — Ocean City 4-1; St. Augustine 2-3