Staff Writer

ABSECON — If Pete Lancetta keeps up this kind of wizardry, the St. Augustine Prep Hermits might have to change their nickname to the Wildcats.

Clinging to a 7-0 lead late in the fourth quarter, Prep needed one big drive and another score to finally put down host Holy Spirit — a team that came into Friday night’s parochial rivalry game sporting a spotless 4-0 record. The Hermits got an interception from sophomore defensive back Ty McLeer — a familiar name in the Navy-and-white as he has two standout older brothers — and took over at their own 46-yard line with a little more than six minutes to play.

That’s when coach Lancetta dug into his bag of tricks and decided to go to the Wildcat formation, with quarterback Ryan Gambill split out wide and backs Julian Turney and Tristan McLeer taking turns running from the quarterback position. The move was genius, as Turney capped off the drive with a 20-yard run up the middle that ultimately sealed a 14-0 victory for St. Augustine Prep in the Bunting Family Pharmacy Game of the Week.

St. Augustine Prep running back Julian Turney grinds out a few of his game-high 103 rushing yards in the Hermits’ win over Holy Spirit. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

The Hermits needed a big win after last week’s 21-7 setback against Millville dropped their record to 2-2.

“I know one thing — I needed this game,” Lancetta said. “I don’t usually speak in the first person, but I told the kids that this was a huge win. We’ve had a tough schedule, but I know we’re a good team. We’re a couple plays away from being undefeated, we truly are. And the kids know that. They know we are good, we just have to keep showing it. We’ll savor this over the weekend — I gave the kids off tomorrow because we’re supposed to have that storm coming through — and it’s certainly going to be a nice weekend now, that’s for sure. Then we just have to keep working and getting better. We always have something we can improve upon.”

Prep (3-2, 1-1 West Jersey Football League American) took advantage of a short field early in the second quarter to jump out to a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Turney and an extra point from Antonio Freund. But that was it for either offense until midway through the fourth quarter as the defenses ruled the day. In the first half there were a combined 12 possessions between the teams and nine of them ended in punts.

“We have some really good personnel on defense and the coaches are outstanding. They are just doing a great job,” Lancetta said. “Even against Millville last week our defense played pretty well. There aren’t too many teams who have held them to 21 points like that.”

“We’re really stepping it up defensively. We haven’t allowed much ever since that first game,” Tristan McLeer said. “We came together as a team and our practices have been a lot better. Shout-out to the scout offense, we call them the ‘Juice Squad’, they’ve been giving us the best looks and getting us better every day. Everybody is coming together as a team. We didn’t panic at all. There was no need to, we knew what we needed to do, and we got the job done today.”

“I love those guys,” Turney said of the defense. “They show out every week and help us out, for sure. It’s only up from here.”

Holy Spirit (4-1, 1-0 WJFL Continental) was limited to just 19 rushing yards and seven first downs, and the Hermits came up with two interceptions and three sacks.

Holy Spirit quarterback Ty Costabile drops back to pass in the fourth quarter. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

The Spartans’ defense was nearly as stingy, as it took the Hermits 38 carries to crack 100 rushing yards and Spirit limited Prep to less than 200 yards of total offense. But the Hermits were able to find some running room when they needed it in the final six minutes. Turney finished with 68 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on 23 hard-fought carries and Tristan McLeer added 30 yards.

“In the first half, it was hard to run, but in the second half we figured out some things and the holes were there,” Turney said. “We wanted to run the Wildcat (earlier in the game), and coach got us in the huddle (in the fourth quarter) and he said, ‘Wildcat.’ And I was like, ‘alright!’ I was happy about that. (On the touchdown run) I saw the hole, made a cut and one of their guys tried to hit me in my legs but I jumped over his arm.”

Switching to the Wildcat formation was just the change-of-pace the Hermits needed after an entire evening of marginal success out of power formations.

“We used it last week against Millville and that’s what got us down near the goal line before we fumbled. We didn’t fumble out of the Wildcat, so I probably should have stayed with it,” Lancetta said. “The coaches were in my ear and I thought that was the appropriate time to go to it (tonight). I wasn’t sure, but it did open things up. And (Turney) can throw the ball, too. And when he went out, Tristan was there and that’s somebody who we have absolute confidence in. He can play any position and he’s in that package in several different spots.

Added Tristan McLeer, “I think we just wanted to try something different. Teams think we just run power, power, power, so we threw in the Wildcat to see if they could stop that. We knew they were a tough team and we knew it was going to be a dogfight, but we have faith in our guys. We trust each other to come together and get the job done. We just have to keep being ourselves and keep believing in ourselves. Everyone is doubting us, but we have to keep being ourselves if we’re going to prove everyone wrong.”

WHAT’S NEXT: St. Augustine Prep hosts Shawnee on Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. Holy Spirit travels to Clearview on Sept. 29 at 6 p.m.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan:; on Twitter @GDsullysays