By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
RICHLAND — If there was an award for the most beautifully played football game of Week 1 in South Jersey, the matchup between host St. Augustine Prep and parochial rival St. Joseph Academy didn’t win it.
Both teams suffered through a host of mistakes and a laundry bag full of flags, but in the end it was the Hermits’ big-play ability that made the difference. St. Augustine Prep jumped out to a 9-0 first-quarter lead and never looked back, cruising to a 30-10 victory over the Wildcats.
The win was much needed for the Hermits, who were coming off getting trounced 41-7 last week by St. Peter’s Prep at the Battle at the Beach in Ocean City in Week Zero.
“Last week was rough, as you can tell from the scoreboard, but I felt like this week we came out and executed on the main keys we were focused on,” said St. Augustine Prep two-way lineman Vincent Isom. “It was a good win. In a rough game you need those big plays (like we got tonight) to win, for sure.”
The Hermits (1-1, 0-0 West Jersey Football League American) won the pregame coin toss and elected to defer to the second half, and that decision paid off quickly as Prep stopped St. Joseph Academy cold in three plays on the first possession of the game, then cashed in with a safety off a bad snap on the punt attempt.
They built on that lead on their first possession, as quarterback Ryan Gambill scrambled to his left and scored from 11 yards out to push the lead to 9-0. The Hermits — at least so far — have been using a two-quarterback system, and in the second quarter Rory Friel found Terrin Walker on a little swing pass, and Walker did the rest. He sprinted to the right sideline, broke a tackle and was gone, racing 85 yards for a touchdown that gave St. Augustine a 16-3 lead.
“We spread it out tonight,” said Tristan McLeer, who finished with 43 rushing yards and a touchdown, and added an interception on defense. He also had a punt return for a touchdown called back because of a penalty. “The approach was to just come out hungry, dominate, dominate up front and win the game.”
If the Wildcats (0-1, 0-0 WJFL Independence) had any thoughts of staging a comeback in the second half, those were dashed on the first possession of the third quarter. Na’cire Christmas took the opening kickoff of the half all the way to the St. Joseph 42-yard line, and McLeer capped off a short drive with a 6-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 23-3.
Christmas added a scoring run early in the fourth quarter, bouncing to the outside on third-and-goal from the 19-yard line and racing in untouched to make it 30-3. St. Joseph’s only touchdown came late in the game on a 59-yard run by Richard Chandler.
McLeer said the Hermits were itching to get back onto the field this week after getting thumped by the Marauders — the No. 3 team in the state, according to nj.com — last Saturday afternoon.
“Last week was our first game and it was rough, but we used that as motivation to come back hungry this week against our rival, St. Joe’s, and we just came out ready to play today,” he said. “After last week the feeling wasn’t good, to come out and beat our rival in our first game at home was a good feeling.”
Added Isom, “we just have to keep rolling through the season. We have Cherokee next week and that should be a good game. We have to come out with the ‘W.’ In this game, I feel like our defense shut them down, for the most part. It feels great and we need to keep moving forward from here.”
What’s next: St. Augustine Prep travels to Cherokee on Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. St. Joseph Academy hosts Holy Spirit on Sept. 9 at 6 p.m.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays