Post 396 – St. Joe’s (Hammonton) 34 Highland Regional 20

First Quarter: The defense of St. Joe’s stuffed Highland on the opening game of the series, forcing a punt that gave them possession on the Highland 40. It took three plays for the Wildcats to get on the board when Cohl Mercado went 14 yards to score and a successful 2-point possession made it 8-0. The score was set up on two runs by Jada Byers totaling 26 yards. Highland answered the bell on the next drive, a combination of runs by Johnny Martin and quarterback Javon Holley, with Holley scoring on a 15 yards out. Their 2-point conversion failed and St. Joe’s led, 8-6. The Highland defense also stepped up, as they forced St. Joe’s to turn the ball over on downs.

Second Quarter: St. Joe’s had the ball to begin the second quarter when Jurius Calrk fumbled and the Wildcats recovered on the Highland 30. Highland’s defense tightened again, turning it over on downs a second time. The Tartans moved the ball, picking up four first downs, but their 34-yard field goal attempt went wide right. Byers went into action, running 23 yards and catching a pass for 42 yards down to the 15. They picked up a first-and-goal from the 5 and on the following play, Jayden Shertel found Keshon Griffin in the back of the end zone for the touchdown with four seconds left for a 14-6 lead.

Third Quarter: St. Joe’s came out with the ball and marched down the field, beginning with two runs by Ahmad Ross for 25 yards, Shertel found Griffin over the middle for 43 yard to the 1, barely missing the end zone. Byers scored on the following play for a 21-6 lead. The Wildcats extended that lead on their next drive, which consisted of one play: a 55-yard score by Byers. Highland went down the field on a 6-minute drive, featuring six runs by Martin. On fourth-and-three from the 15, pass interference was called on St. Joe’s to set the Tartans up with a first-and-goal from the 7. After a penalty moved the ball back five yards and a run that gained three yards, St. Joe’s made a break when Amari Fleming-Powell intercepted just over the goal line.

Fourth Quarter: St. Joe’s scored the winning points when Shertel found Byers, who weaved his way through Highland defenders for the 36-yard touchdown. Highland closed the gap on Martin touchdowns of 39 and 73 yards.

Comments: St. Joe’s (Hammonton) head coach Paul Sacco: “The first drive was so important for us, getting the first score. We’re a different team this year being able to throw the ball. We’re rebuilding our line with one starter back and he played tight end last year. Going into the second half, we had to get the ball into Byers’ hands more often. He’s outstanding and a special player. It’s a shame he only has one or two offers.”

St. Joe’s (Hammonton) running back Jada Byers: “My vision is tremendous; people always ask me how I do things and I’m just able to see things. On the last score, I knew they bite on some fakes and I was able to move around.”

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