Photo by Alan M. Dumoff/More photos www.ccdphotoalbum.com
St. Joseph’s football players celebrate the touchdown by Sean Clark (hidden) in their game against Holy Spirit on Saturday, Oct. 3.
HAMMONTON — Every year there are games that all fans look forward to no matter where it’s played. The rivalry between Holy Spirit and St. Joe’s (Hammonton) is one of them as the games are always hard fought and very well played. This year’s contest was no different as the Wildcats (3-1) downed the Spartans (3-1) 19-14 on Sean Clark’s second touchdown plunge from three yards out with just 35 seconds left on the clock.
Spirit’s junior quarterback Joe Callahan threw for 274 yards and two long scores in the defeat, while the Wildcat defense limited the Cape-Atlantic League’s (CAL) leading rusher from 2008, Nigel Jones, to just 76 hard earned yards on the ground.
St. Joe’s balanced offense was led by sophomore quarterback Darryl Smith with 129 yards through the air and 50 yards on the ground. Smith led the Cats on two of the three scoring drives in spectacular fashion.
After a scoreless first quarter, Spirit drew first blood on a 67 yard bomb from Callahan to Joe Sarnese (5 catches, 135 yards) but St. Joe came back to tie it before the half. A 16 play, 86 yard drive was highlighted by four Smith escapes to keep it alive. Two fourth down conversions and two third-and-long Smith conversions for first downs, set up Clark’s first score from seven yards out. The drive took almost six minutes.
“He’s (Smith) is going to be good,” said Wildcats coach Paul Sacco. “He’s going to get better but he’s a good one and he showed a glimpse of that on the drive. We expected them (Spirit) to throw and they did a nice job of it.”
Spirit made a concerted effort to get Jones more involved in the second half as he started to wear down the St. Joe defense but they stiffened to give their offense a chance.
That chance paid off for St. Joe when Gordon Hill scored from seven yards out after Smith hit Vinny Reed (4 catches, 52 yards) on three passes to set up the score.
Spirit answered with a Callahan to Dan McNair strike for 64 yards to give Holy Spirit the lead again at 14-13, and it looked like Spirit would clinch it after Smith threw an interception to Sarnese, but the Spartans couldn’t get a first down to run the clock.
Sarnese tried to punt but a low snap forced his knee down and St. Joe took over on Spirit’s 13. The Spartan defense held giving the offense one more opportunity but again, could not seem to get the first down.
Reed’s punt return gave them the ball at the Holy Spirit 18 and this time they made it count for the winning score.
“The bad snap changed the field position,” said Spartan coach Charlie Roman. “Against a team like St. Joe you cannot allow that to happen. We were hoping for one more stop but hats off to them; they played a little better today.”
“I thought we’d get another shot at it (a score),” said Smith. “I want to lead my team to Rutgers (for the State Championship) and we had to win this to have a shot.”
Extra Points: The game was hard fought on both sides with many players cramping up during the contest. St. Joe’s running back Jared Bianchini did not play with a knee injury. There was an over-flow crowd on a warm but overcast day.