St. Joseph head coach Paul Sacco preached for his team to stay focused heading into their latest clash with St. Mary’s of Rutherford. After all, it’s an opponent that his Wildcats had beaten convincingly to win their last three Non-Public Group I state titles, by a combined score of 127-0.
It seems Coach Sacco’s message was well received, as St. Joseph captured its 5th straight state title with another victory over the Gaels on Saturday; and while it wasn’t another shutout, the 33-13 end result wasn’t any less special.
The Wildcats moved the ball with ease on their first offensive possession, capped off by a Rocco Ordille 17-yard touchdown run down the sideline. Despite back-to-back penalties against the Wildcats, including one that negated a 25-yard LaFragola score, St. Joseph’s 1st quarter offense still proved to be too much. A’Laam Horne got the penalty yardage back and more on his 34-yard touchdown to give the Wildcats a 12-0 lead.
St. Joseph extended their lead midway through the 2nd quarter with another dominating drive, concluding with C.J. LaFragola’s punishing 5-yard touchdown plunge.
It looked like the momentum would turn in the 3rd quarter; the Wildcats fumbled twice and St. Mary’s controlled the clock. The Gaels also ended their state championship game scoring drought of three games and two-plus quarters against St. Joseph, when Keon Banks connected with Michael Polonkay on a 34-yard option pass. But the Wildcats defense held on the next Gaels possession, and forced the St. Mary’s offense out of scoring range.
St. Joseph imposed their will in the final quarter. Ordille’s second touchdown run gave the Wildcats a comfortable lead, and Salaam Horne’s 25-yard interception return score all but ended it. Kevin Woupes would add a 10-yard touchdown run for the Gaels, but the Wildcats recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock.
Here are some of the best calls from Saturday’s championship game, as heard live on 97.3 ESPN-FM:
Rocco Ordille 17-yard touchdown run
A’Laam Horne 34-yard touchdown run
Rocco Ordille 45-yard touchdown run
Salaam Horne 25-yard interception return touchdown
St. Joseph has won five consecutive Non-Public Group I state championships, including four straight against St. Mary’s of Rutherford. The Wildcats finish their season at 11-1, with their only loss coming against undefeated Holy Spirit in their opening game.
Congratulations to coach Paul Sacco and the state champion St. Joseph Wildcats for another fantastic season.
Here are some of the other interviews from this week’s edition of the South Jersey Sports Report:
Kevin Minnick, Courier-Post sports reporter
Mike Gill, Host of ‘The Sports Bash’ on 97.3 ESPN-FM
Phil Anastasia, Philadelphia Inquirer sports reporter
Deandre Dennis, Holy Spirit Spartans running back
Mike McGarry, Press of Atlantic City sports reporter
‘Shop with a Cop’ officials: Chief John Thompson (Mullica Township Police Department), Officer William Geiger (Northfield Police Department) & Mike Carney (Store Manager of Wal-Mart in Mays Landing)
We’d also like to congratulate the South Jersey Athlete(s) of the Week:
Amir Mitchell, Rocco Ordille & Dylan Cummings
Mitchell: The Cedar Creek sophomore standout scored three touchdowns in a 33-0 victory over St. Augustine Prep. Mitchell rushed for 114 yards and two touchdowns, while also catching a 35-yard touchdown pass as the Pirates clinched a share of its first conference title.
Ordille: The St. Joseph running back scored the game-winning touchdown in a 28-21 win over Hammonton. The junior rushed 14 yards or the go-ahead score with 3:14 remaining in the final matchup between the rivals as Cape-Atlantic League opponents.
Cummings: Finished his Pennsville career ranked second all-time in state history with 7,694 passing yards. However, he capped off his senior season with a monster performance on the ground, rushing for a school-record 326 yards on 30 carries. He scored six touchdowns.
It’s all right here, on The South Jersey Sports Report. Listen every Saturday, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on 97.3 ESPN-FM or 973espn.com, and catch the expanded edition every Thursday night from 6-7 p.m.
Follow Tyler Donohue on Twitter @TDsTake