By Phil Anastasia
Paul Sacco looked at the scoreboard and shook his head.
"Can't be happy with 21-0," the St. Joseph football coach said.
St. Joseph hosted national power Don Bosco Prep in a game-like scrimmage on Saturday before several hundred spectators at Bill Bendig Memorial Field in the heart of Hammonton.
Don Bosco Prep, which is No. 23 in MaxPreps' Xcellent 25 national rankings, scored three touchdowns to zero for St. Joseph in a scrimmage in which the starters from both sides played about three-and-a-half quarters.
"I saw some good things," said Sacco, whose team is likely to be ranked No. 1 in South Jersey at the start of the season. "They (Don Bosco) are much better than last year. They don't make mistakes."
Here are some key takeaways from St. Joe's first scrimmage:
-- Don Bosco is terrific. No big revelation there but the Ironmen likely will open the season No. 2 in the state (behind St. Peter's Prep) and could be No. 1 by the end of the year. They have a dangerous dual-threat quarterback in senior Wes McKoy, an explosive running back in junior Malik Bakker and a dominant lineman in Ohio State-bound senior Kevin Feder.
-- But it's not just those guys. DBP is a huge team, with front lines that seem to average around 300. One of their better players is DL Zach Chakonis, who lost a tight match to Delsea's Bryan Dobzanski in the 220-pound state final in wrestling in March.
-- Big pass plays were the difference in the game. DBP got two huge plays from WR R.J. Edwards, a recent transfer from St. Joe Montvale. Edwards made a diving catch for a 41-yard gain on 3rd-and-15 to fuel the Ironmen's first scoring drive -- I mean, he was horizonal -- and made another great catch for a 47-yard gain on the visitor's second scoring drive.
"Two circus catches," Sacco said.
Two other pass plays were big. Bakker scored on a 34-yard catch on wheel route two plays after Edwards' 47-yard reception, and Bakker took a screen pass 45 yards to set up DBP's third TD (a 19-yard run by Bakker).
-- St. Joseph junior defensive end Chris Carey and senior DT Justin Kennedy played strong games. Carey was extremely active, spending a lot of time in the DBP backfield despite being matched up with RT Feder (who is listed at 6-9, 305).
-- St. Joseph moved the ball on its first drive, generating 3 first downs and reaching the Bosco 32 before the Ironmen dropped the Wildcats a yard short on a 4th-and-2.
-- St. Joseph's offense bogged down a bit after that, with just a couple more first downs for the rest of the game. Senior FB C.J. LaFragola, senior RB Rocco Ordille and junior QB Salaam Horne had a few good runs but never broke loose, and SJ did not generate anything from about 6-7 pass attempts.
-- St. Joseph's defense stepped up in the third quarter. With DBP still playing its starters, the Wildcats forced three consecutive three-and-outs. Leading the way were NG Mike Merlino and LB LaFragola, among others.
-- St. Joseph registered the only TD of the short JV session when junior DB John Payne returned an interception about 90 yards for a score.
-- Don Bosco probably is a little further along in preparing for the season as the Ironmen open Sept. 6 (while St. Joe opens Sept. 13). DBP's first three games: St. Joe's Prep of Philadelphia, St. Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Central of Fort Pierce, Florida. Those are national-profile games.
-- St. Joseph has two scrimmages remaining: home vs. Shawnee on Friday and at Camden Sept. 4. The Wildcats open home Sept. 13 vs. St. Augustine Prep.
-- Sacco: "They were better than us. It's hard to think we'll see a better team than they are during the season."
-- Sacco: "We played some great teams in the CAL American but a lot of times you can find a soft spot. There are no soft spots (with DBP)."
-- St. Joseph senior lineman Justin Kennedy: "We played hard. They (DBP) are a good team with a lot of good players at every position. This is going to make us better in the long run."
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