The St. Joseph High School football team outlasted rival Holy Spirit in a defensive battle to open the Non-Public II playoffs with a win.
The Wildcats, the No. 2 seed, scored two second half touchdowns to beat the No. 7 Spartans, 13-0, on Nov. 14 at Bill Bendig Field in Hammonton. It was the second straight shutout win for St. Joseph.
The Wildcats (8-2) will take on No. 3 Immaculata (8-2) in the semifinals on Nov. 21. Immaculata blanked No. 6 Holy Cross, 35-0, in the quarterfinals.
Some eyebrows may have been raised at the Wildcats’ low-scoring win. After all, the Spartans were .500 entering the game while St. Joseph was gunning for a seventh straight state title. However, it didn’t surprise Sacco, who has seen the rivalry grow in recent years,
The two teams used to be in the same conference before the Cape-Atlantic League last realigned. When both squads were at their best, the matchups were among the key games on each other’s schedules.
“We were expecting that,” Sacco said. “Some people expected to put up 40 or 50 points, but I know when we have these kind of rivalries between two Catholic schools, the coaches and players know it is going to be a tough, physical game.
“Our defense played very well, probably the best we have played all year long. Our offense sputtered a little bit, but you have to give them credit. They did a good job defending us.”
Both defenses came up big, especially in the first half. The Spartans slowed down both Horne brothers in the opening half.
The duo finally broke through in the third quarter, as quarterback Salaam Horne, who threw for 82 yards, found A’Laam Horne in the back of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown pass.
A’Laam Horne, who also added 82 yards on the ground, made a leaping grab over his shoulder, just getting one foot down before stepping out of the back of the end zone.
Salaam Horne gave the Wildcats a two-score cushion when he sprinted 35 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“We made some adjustments at halftime, and our kids are very resilient,” Sacco said. “I felt like we controlled the whole second half.”
The Wildcats defense will be seeing a totally different look this week. The Immaculata Spartans like to spread teams out and pass the ball.
In their win against Holy Cross, quarterback John Phelan dropped back and threw 25 passes for 198 yards. However, they can also run the ball with running back Dustin Parker, who finished with 141 yards and three scores against the Lancers.
“They have a quarterback that has thrown well over 300 passes,” Sacco said. “It is a fast-paced offense. They try to run a play every 15 seconds, so you don’t really get an opportunity to huddle.”