HAMMONTON — Just a month ago, the St. Joseph High School football team seemed destined to be one of the top teams in the school’s illustrious history.

But the season hasn’t unfolded as planned, and it culminated Saturday afternoon in a game that stunned the South Jersey football community.

West Deptford dominated from the opening kickoff and beat the Wildcats 51-0 in a West Jersey Football League interdivision game.

“They came out physical,” St. Joe junior running back and defensive back Jada Byers said. “They took our pride. That’s all I can really say. They took our pride away. ... That’s not St. Joe football.”

The loss came three days after St. Joe suspended head coach Paul Sacco, the winningest coach in South Jersey history, after a Snapchat video surfaced Wednesday that revealed some players using racial slurs, taunting Haddonfield players and cursing.

The school did not announce the names of any players disciplined for the incident, but the Wildcats played Saturday without a pair of two-way starters.

The video was made at Sacco’s home the night before the Wildcats lost to Haddonfield 22-15 on Sept. 29.

Longtime St. Joe assistant Ricky Mauriello coached the Wildcats on Saturday. A sign stating “Sacco Strong” was hung along the end-zone fence.

West Deptford is one of South Jersey’s premier programs. The Eagles deserve credit for how well they played Saturday, but the result was surprising.

St. Joe (5-2) is ranked No. 4 in The Press Elite 11; West Deptford is unranked. Saturday’s loss was the worst for St. Joe since a 42-0 defeat to St. Augustine Prep on Oct. 28, 2016.

West Deptford shut down the St. Joe running game, allowing the Wildcats to gain just 24 yards on 30 carries. St. Joe had 75 yards of offense.

West Deptford produced 288 yards of offense.

One play symbolized the differences in the teams.

West Deptford running back Tyshawn Bookman grabbed a toss at midfield with less than a minute left in the first half. He ran through the St. Joe team and broke multiple tackles for a 49-yard score that gave the Eagles a 20-0 halftime lead.

West Deptford players and coaches were aware of what was happening at St. Joe, but the Eagles stayed focused on their own preparation.

“We worked hard this week about making it us vs. us,” West Deptford coach Jason Morrell said. “I love Paul Sacco. He and I have known each other since I was young. We do camps together in the summer. I feel sick for him that he has to go through this. But we really just tried to focus on us.”

With a 44-0 lead and 2 minutes, 51 seconds left in the game, West Deptford backups completed a 70-yard touchdown pass. Morrell declined to comment on that play after the game.

Mauriello immediately left the field after St. Joe’s postgame huddle. He later declined to speak with reporters.

Byers has been one of state’s top players all season, and he showed his off-the-field character Saturday by speaking with reporters and acting as a team spokesperson during what has been a difficult week.

“It was a very tough week,” Byers said. “We tried to change the offense a little bit and do the best we could do.”

St. Joe looked as good as ever after beating Millville 34-6 on Sept. 8 and St. Augustine Prep 30-8 on Sept. 14. But the Wildcats have lost two of their last three games. They are a program with a lot to think about — on and off the field.

West Deptford 13 7 17 14 – 51

St. Joseph; 0 0 0 0 – 0

FIRST QUARTER

WD—Bookman 26 fumble recovery (kick missed)

WD—Thurston 17 pass from Graeber (Ratcliffe kick)

SECOND QUARTER

WD—Bookman 49 run (Ratcliffe kick)

THIRD QUARTER

WD—Paratore 55 pass from Graeber (Ratcliffe kick)

WD—Fisherkeller 33 fumble recovery

WD—Ratcliffe 28 field goal

FOURTH QUARTER

WD—Hoyt 1 run (Ratcliffe kick)

WD—Stone 70 pass from Gismondi (Ratcliffe kick)

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Contact: 609-272-7209 MMcGarry@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressMcGarry

I've covered high school sports and variety of other events and teams - including the ShopRite LPGA Classic and the Phillies - since 1993.

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