By MARK TRIBLE
Glory Days Football Writer
BUENA VISTA — Just a shade later than 8 p.m. here after a drizzly second half, all eyes turned to the game that will be previewed, ballyhooed and dictated about around South Jersey for the next seven days.
But that only came because St. Augustine looked every bit the part of a top team in the region on Friday night. The Hermits rolled rival St. Joseph, 24-7.
It came courtesy of an effort that put Prep (3-1) with a surplus of 201 yards — 305 to 104.
St. Augustine — the No. 3-ranked team in The South Jersey Football Frenzy Show Best 11 Rankings — will head to Millville’s Wheaton Field next Friday. The No. 2 Thunderbolts (3-0) await.
A week will provide plenty of time for that topic.
Friday night, a rigid defense and power ground game paved the way for the hype to begin. That’s exactly what normally takes this Holy War segment. Especially when coaches Paul Sacco and Pete Lancetta are involved.
“They have a lot of talent, very talented players,” Lancetta, who won his 12th in 26 tries against Sacco, said. “They’re well coached and you know what you’re up against when you play them.
“Our kids, you know, they rose to the occasion defensively.”
The Hermits struck first on a 2nd-and-20 play when the jet sweep went to Kenny Selby. The senior deftly kept his feet inbounds and turned up the right sideline. Afterburners were on and Selby found pay dirt 85 yards later.
“When I got the ball on the jet, I thought I was going to get pushed out to the sideline, but they missed a tackle and I saw it open,” Selby said of his jaunt that came with 2 minutes, 16 seconds left in the first frame. “I just hit the hole and I got up out of there.”
Brandon Bispo tacked on a 32-yard field goal with 2:13 to go before intermission. The Wildcats (2-2) utilized the two-minute offense to threaten in Prep territory.
Selby snuffed it out. He leaped in traffic and came down with the pilfer at the 11-yard line.
“I was telling my team before half, ‘we can’t let them score, one of us has to make a play,’” Selby said before he took that upon himself. “When it happened, I made the play.”
St. Joseph did get on the board early in the second half after a fumble recovery set up the Wildcats in the red zone.
Kanye Udoh and Co. refused to wilt.
His 41-yard run — and a facemask penalty to boot — put the Hermits at the 5-yard line. That came at the close of the third stanza. To open the final act, quarterback Trey McLeer fumbled the snap, picked it up and found a way over the goal-line.
A fortuitous play, but McLeer seems to have a knack for such. It turned out that type of night for the hosts, who put the ball on the turf five times and recovered four of them.
Udoh rolled in for a 14-yard score to wrap it up midway through the fourth. He went for 154 yards on 20 carries — his third consecutive game with yardage in triple digits.
He hugged his mother along the fence line behind the end zone in an emotional moment. Two days prior marked the second anniversary of his grandmother’s death.
“It always affects me when I play,” Udoh said. “So, I always try to go out there and do my best.”
The tough runner certainly put forward a proud effort. As did that defense.
“We balled out, these guys executed the game plan,” Northwestern-commit Denis Jaquez said. “We did what we had to do.”
Now, they’ll gear up for what could be the area’s regular season Game of the Year. Last season, the Bolts stunned Prep, 22-21 — also at Wheaton Field.
“I already started thinking about that game,” Udoh said of the journey to Millville, mere moments after Lancetta’s post-victory speech. “I’m already focused on that game, getting in practice and doing what we have to do.
“So, we can go out there and do what we’ve got to.”
The countdown is on.
Mark Trible covers high school football for Glory Days Magazine. Check out his weekly Facebook Live show every Wednesday at 7 p.m. The South Jersey Football Frenzy Show can be seen at facebook.com/acglorydays