Football preview: St. Joseph's

It's pick your poison for opponents when it comes to blocking St. Joseph's defensive line.

At one end will be Max Valles, who has committed to the University of Virginia.

At the other will be Kaiwan Lewis, who has committed to the University of South Carolina.

"What I love about these two kids is that you would never know they had already verballed," St. Joe's coach Paul Sacco said. "They are still working hard, still humble. They are determined to have a big season for us."

Valles and Lewis might form the most potent pair of DEs in the state. They are the foundation of a defense that should lead the Wildcats to another 10-or-so-win season and another Non-Public 1 state title.

St. Joe's is a heavy favorite to win the NP-1 state crown as well as the CAL United Division title. The Wildcats also could challenge Holy Spirit for overall CAL supemacy as well as the No. 1 overall spot in South Jersey.

"We have to play better against them," Sacco said of Holy Spirit, which beat St. Joe's by a 35-0 score last season in a game that was scoreless late in the first half before turnovers did in the Wildcats.

The strength of St. Joe's football has always been its line play, the product of a weight-training program that is second to none in the state.

This might be an exaggeration but only a slight one -- the Wildcats probably went right from last December's 40-0 victory over St. Mary's in the state title game to their little garage of a weight room behind the school in Hammonton.

Sacco thinks this year's offensive and defensive lines should be among his best. Leading the way on both sides will be Corey Litton, Chares Cade, Mike Adams and Delonce Hargrave, among others.

The Wildcats return a top running back in Kaheem Reynolds, a four-year varsity player. They also are looking for a big year from Daryl Smith, a converted quarterback who will play running back.

Anthony Giagunto returns at QB. Lewis will play some tight end, and Valles plays wide receiver, punts, and kicks.

"This is my last year here and I want to live it up," Valles said.

St. Joe's is back where it was about six or eight years ago -- deep enough, strong enough and talented enough to compete with any program in South Jersey.

-- Phil Anastasia