It was Oct. 23 before the Hudson Catholic High School football team finally allowed a single point.
Six games. Six shutouts.
That’s the kind of defense that stands in-between St. Joseph and its seventh consecutive championship.
The Wildcats, who are 9-2 and the No. 2 seed, will be the home team when they take on No. 4 Hudson Catholic (10-1) at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at Rowan University for the Non-Public II championship.
“People are saying they are playing all Group II schools, but you know what, whether they are playing all Group IIs or not, their first six games were shutouts,” said St. Joseph coach Paul Sacco. “They are giving up just a couple points a game. Their strong point is defensively because they are all over the place. They are very athletic.
“We are just trying to watch film and come up with the right game plan. I think they will try the same approach of some of the teams that did a good job stopping our offense this year. I think they will come up with same type of game plan. We have some things we haven’t used all year and there is no better time to use it. There is no sense in saving anything.”
The Hawks are giving up just 6.7 points a game, and the most they have allowed was 22 to Lincoln, which was the team’s lone loss of the season. Hudson Catholic defeated St. Mary, 34-14, and top-seeded Montclair Kimberly, 31-19, to advance to the title game.
However, the Hawks, who are still searching for their first state title, will play a St. Joseph team accustomed to the big stage. The Wildcats, who topped Holy Spirit 13-0 in the opening round, are coming off a 48-6 win over Immaculata in the semifinals.
It was the sixth time St. Joseph scored more than 35 points in a game. Behind the play of quarterback Salaam Horne and fullback A’Laam Horne, the Wildcats have, most likely, the best offense the Hawks will play this season.
Sophomore back Qwashin Townsel is also coming on strong the last half of the season to give St. Joseph another threat on offense.
Against Immaculata, Townsel rushed for 106 yards and three touchdowns and A’Laam Horne added 93 yards and three scores.
St. Joseph will look to the Horne brothers and the other senior starters to lead the way against Hudson Catholic.
“I’ve always said you only go as far as your seniors take you,” Sacco said. “We had some struggles this year, but better late than never. Last game was our best game we played all year. I think they realize the end is coming. We don’t have a lot of seniors that start, but for them this could be the final football game because some of them won’t get the opportunity to play in college. We try to play our best football in November and December and hopefully that is still true.”
The St. Joseph defense has also been strong of late. The Wildcats have allowed just 19 points in their last four games, including two shutouts.
St. Joseph will have to slow down running backs Malcom Stewart and Jonathon Barber, but the biggest threat may be Hawks quarterback Marcus Dunn, who can put up points on the ground and through the air.
Without a Thanksgiving Day game, the Wildcats had some extra time to prepare for Hudson Catholic.
“I’ve never been so happy about getting an extra week because it gives us time to look at things and what we need to do to get ready to play next Sunday,” Sacco said.