WESTFIELD, NJ — The St. Joseph of Metuchen football team capitalized on a pair of interceptions and used an aggressive defensive performance to improve to 2-0 and get past Westfield, 20-3, on Saturday afternoon in the Blue Devils’ home opener at Gary Kehler Stadium.
St. Joseph, coming off a 17-12 victory over Elizabeth last week, was stout on the defensive end all game. Westfield, in its first game of the year after having to sit out last week due to COVID-19, struggled to find answers.
“We just didn’t do enough offensively,” said Westfield head coach Jim DeSarno. “I felt that we moved the ball pretty well between the 20s but anything we got going we shot ourselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers. You just can’t do that. We have a lot of work to do, we know it.”
Things started off very well for the Blue Devils, as Matt Shinners picked off St. Joseph quarterback Matt Stanton early in the first quarter.
Westfield was able to move the ball but had to settle for a 23-yard field goal from Mack Prybylski, the team’s quarterback.
The teams traded punts before sophomore St. Joseph running back and Franklin transfer Omari Jones scored the first touchdown of the game when he broke for a 69-yard scoring run that put the Falcons ahead 7-3 with 3:21 left in the opening quarter.
Things really imploded for Westfield when Carteret transfer Anai Brake intercepted Prybylski on the ensuing drive that eventually set up a 1-yard keeper from Stanton that gave St. Joseph a 14-3 advantage with 7:30 left in the half.
Westfield moved the ball well on the next drive. But just like before, when the Blue Devils had some momentum going, a costly turnover proved to be their downfall.
Defensive lineman and senior Gianni Principato made a great play up front and intercepted Pryblyski.
“Going into this game, we were a little worried because we didn’t have any film on them,” said St. Joseph head coach Rich Hilliard. “Our defensive coordinator had it pinned right. Our defense was lights out. Anai is a lights-out player. Any time the ball is around him he’s going to get his hands on it. The same with Gianni Principato on the end — he’s a big, athletic, strong kid. He makes plays.”
“I had so much adrenaline and I saw the ball in the air and I told myself I had to make this catch,” Principato said of the interception.
St. Joseph’s defense took care of the rest of the day, and then a 63-yard touchdown connection on a crossing route from Stanton to Osiris Acevedo sealed the deal in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons had a good read on what Westfield wanted to do on the offensive end.
“They did a lot of the shuffle passes, and we tried to shut that down,” Principato said. “In the first half they were doing some read-option, and we had that locked down.”
Jordan Kinsler ran for 96 yards on 19 carries for St. Joseph. Shane Carlin and Prybylski combined for 81 yards on the ground for Westfield.
Trey Brown came on in the second half at quarterback for the Blue Devils.
Westfield will look to regroup when it takes on Bridgewater-Raritan on the road Friday night. B-R is coming off a massive upset victory over Union, a top-10 team in the state.
St. Joseph takes its 2-0 record to Ridge for a road test against the 1-1 Red Devils. Ridge fell to Cranford by a 42-19 score Friday night.
Hilliard looks forward to another challenge.
“We’re playing a really good team next week,” he said. “We’re going to get right back to work. Just to be out here with this pandemic stuff going on, it’s a blessing. I tell the kids to make sure to come out and play like it’s their last game. We’ll take the games as they come.”