DePaul broke open a 14-14 tie in the third quarter with 21 unanswered points to beat St. Joe’s (Hammonton), 21-14, to advance to the Non-Public B finals next week in a rematch against Red Bank Catholic.
First Quarter: DePaul opened the game with a 70-yard drive that ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Derek Zammit to Dez Jones. The key play that set up the score came two plays earlier on a 21-yard pass to Jaden Johnson.
Second Quarter: The next seven drives ended up with punts until St. Joe’s recovered a fumble on the 36-yard line of DePaul. On fourth down, James Mantuano found Zach Cruet for 30 yards to the 6-yard line to give the Wildcats a first-and-goal. Two plays later, Ty Mercado scored on a 3-yard run to tie the score with three minutes left. Their next possession ended abruptly when Nyair Domnie intercepted. A 43-yard pass to Jones was followed three plays later by a physical 14-yard touchdown run by Anthony Almeida with three seconds left.
Third Quarter: DePaul was forced to punt after being bottled up by penalties and St. Joe’s began on the DePaul 30. A penalty and a Nasir Mahmoud run of 18 yards brought the Wildcats to the 2. Mantuano scored on a 1-yard sneak to knot things at 14-14. But DePaul immediately answered with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Johnson. After a St. Joe’s punt, DePaul had an eleven-play drive capped off with a 1-yard touchdown run by Zammit after he bobbled the snap. The score was set up by three Maximillion Montgomery runs of 12, 10, and 1 yards.
Fourth Quarter: Montgomery scored on a 4-yard run through the middle after DeShawn Stewart intercepted on the 4.
Comments: DePaul started off well on the first drive and did not pick it up until the first half’s last drive. In between, the game was a bit ugly with the teams exchanging punts. In the second half, they were more productive. Zammit, a freshman, was 10-17-142-1 passing. Almeida picked up 85 yards on 15 carries and Montgomery 36 yards on 6 carries in late action. The DePaul defense only allowed 98 yards of total offense. The two allowed scores resulted from excellent field position. Those two scoring drives produced 56 yards – take that away and the Spartan defense allowed 42 yards on ten drives.
St. Joe’s (Hammonton) stayed in the game through three quarters. DePaul head coach Nick Campanile told me after the game that the Wildcats played hard and were very tough. They were very disciplined and a former coach remarked how tough Mantuano was as a player. But the Wildcats were unable to move the ball most of the night and it showed in the score.
The game marked what looks like the second-to-last game in the distinguished career of St. Joe’s head coach Paul Sacco, who is leaving at the conclusion of the season. They have one more game on Thanksgiving against Winslow. Even though they lost the game to a better team, his team was a reflection of him in how hard and disciplined they were. I wish Coach Sacco very well in the future.