BUENA VISTA – Pete Lancetta knows a deep depth chart should pay dividends for the St. Augustine Prep football team as the season unfolds.
A grueling schedule and the usual bumps and bruises are reasons the veteran head coach tries to limit as few two-way players as he can.
Just don’t expect seniors Trey McLeer and Kenny Selby to be losing their two-way status anytime soon.
Both players played pivotal roles on both sides of the football on Friday night, helping the host Hermits to a workmanlike 24-7 win over rival St. Joseph in the second leg of South Jersey’s Holy War.
“We knew we had a tough stretch here and this was a big win,” said McLeer, who scored a touchdown on a quarterback keeper and has several big tackles from his safety position.
Selby added, “This feels good because I have a lot of friends on that team, I get some bragging rights over them, but it also gives us more confidence going into next week.”
Third-ranked St. Augustine (3-1), winners of three straight, will travel to No. 2 Millville for a huge showdown at Wheaton Field. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. on Friday.
“We’re getting better. We’ve come a long way in a few weeks,” Lancetta said. “We’re playing a lot of kids, guys are getting a lot of time. It’s great to have a lot of guys out there and contributing.”
After the game, McLeer and some of his teammates raced over to the bleaches, climbing the fence to embrace the fans and celebrate the big victory.
“There’s nothing like St. Augustine, these guys are my brothers, they are my family,” McLeer said. “It’s a brotherhood.”
Before his junior season, McLeer wanted to be a starting quarterback and, while that wasn’t a lock at St. Augustine, he went looking for another opportunity at Kingsway. However, the Mullica Hill native returned to the Prep before even taking a class at the public school.
“As far as I’m concerned he never left,” Lancetta said. “He just always wanted to play quarterback. In the end, it worked out.
“The reason why he wasn’t a (starting) quarterback (here) initially wasn’t because he couldn’t do it, it was because he was so good defensively.”
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound McLeer showed his hard-hitting ability on three tackles for losses, including one on the second play of the game and another that went for an 8-yard loss in the fourth quarter. He entered the game second on the team in tackles (21).
While St. Augustine attacked St. Joseph with a potent ground attack (249 yards), McLeer didn’t get an opportunity to throw the ball much, completing 2-of-3 passes for 56 yards.
“Trey does so much for us,” Lancetta said. “He’s very intelligent, he can run the ball and he can definitely throw the ball. He’s got a really good arm, we don’t always show it, but he does. He’s just a really heady player.”
McLeer displayed that trait after recovering a bouncing snap and pounding his way into the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown to extend the Hermits lead to 17-7 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Selby, a 5-foot-9, 155-pound speedster who hails from Vineland, provided two of the biggest highlights of the game. He ripped off an 85-yard touchdown in the first quarter, going untouched down the right sideline, before picking off a pass at the end of the first half.
“Kenny’s a dynamic player,” Lancetta said. “We’ve got to get him and Nasir Hill the ball more. We got a lot of big games left.”
St. Augustine’s defense held St. Joseph to 104 total yards, forcing the Wildcats into four straight three-and-out in the first half and six total for the game. The unit was working with a short field after the Wildcats started at the Hermit 13 following a fumble, setting the stage for their only score in the third quarter.
“It’s a senior-heavy defense and we just have that chemistry working,” said McLeer, who is making a college visit to St. Francis on Saturday. “We like to play physical, that’s the mentality of our defense. Tough and physical, we just get after it.”
“That’s what we do,” Selby said. “Every day in practice, we take pride in our defense, we like to fly around and get physical.”
That physical play will be tested against a Millville offense known for its speed.
Tom McGurk is a regional sports reporter for the Courier-Post, The Daily Journal and Burlington County Times, covering South Jersey sports for over 30 years. If you have a sports story that needs to be told, contact him at (856) 486-2420 or email email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @McGurkSports. Help support local journalism with a digital subscription.