METUCHEN – After 13 consecutive road games over a span of 23 months, the St. Joseph football team played their first home game since November 2013 on Saturday afternoon against Perth Amboy. The Falcons (2-2) christened their new home, Falcon Field, in style with a 34-0 win over the Panthers (0-4).
The last time the Falcons played a game at St. Joseph was the first round of the 2013 state playoffs, a 45-28 loss to St. Augustine, when 28 of the 62 players on their roster were still in middle school.
After running the ball on every single play last week in a 34-0 win over John F. Kennedy, the Falcons turned to sophomore quarterback Paul Cocozziello’s arm this week. Cocozziello was 11-of-22 passing for 213 yards and four touchdowns.
“We played like this all pre-season, throwing and running the ball well. Paul is a young kid and he’s progressed every week,” St. Joseph head coach Casey Ransone said after the game. “Obviously he has the ability. He has a rocket arm, great pocket presence, and the athletes around him to make plays. It was just a progression of getting a couple games under his belt as a sophomore.”
“My coaches gave me the opportunity, my line blocked for me, and my receivers caught the ball. I couldn’t ask for more,” Cocozziello said. “My team has helped me get settled and I couldn’t be in a better situation to succeed.”
St. Joe’s got off to a quick start, driving 84 yards downfield on its first possession, which lasted seven minutes and ended in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Cocozziello to sophomore wide receiver Jonathan Sot, the first ever points on Falcon Field.
Cocozziello found senior wide receiver Joe Papa on the next drive for a 59-yard touchdown and again in the third quarter for a 46-yard touchdown. Papa finished with a game high 139 receiving yards on five receptions.
The final blow was a 16-yard touchdown from Cocozziello to senior wide receiver Matt Scull with 8:01 to play.
“We played as a team and dominated throughout the game,” Papa said. “We worked all week on the big plays and it paid off big time today.”
The St. Joseph defense turned in its second straight shutout after giving up 40 total points in the first two games of the season. The Falcons limited the Panthers to 103 yards, 35 of which came off of penalties. Perth Amboy did not even cross into Falcon territory until there was 6:40 left in the game. The Panthers scratched out just 30 yards on 14 carries.
Panther freshman quarterback Tahjmere O’Neal threw for 54 yards on 6-of-14 completions and was intercepted three times. Mitchel Epstein, Luke Yakely, and Adrian Javier each an interception.
Yakely, who plays both ways a running back and linebacker, returned his pick for a 41-yard touchdown and also ran for 110 yards on 23 carries. Sophomore running back Emmanuele Resto tallied 65 yards on 11 carries.
“I told the kids that this was their day,” St. Joseph head coach Casey Ransone said after the game. “This is what we’ve been waiting for for two years and they came out and seized the day like we’ve been talking about all week. We were physical and made great plays on both sides of the ball.”
ST. JOSEPH (2-2) 7-13-7-7-34
PERTH AMBOY (0-4) 0-0-0-0-0
SJ- Sot 20 pass from Cocozziello (Sot kick)
SJ- Papa 59 pass from Cocozziello (kick failed)
SJ- Yakely 41 interception (Sot kick)
SJ- Papa 46 pass from Cocozziello (Sot kick)
SJ- Scull 16 pass from Cocozziello (Sot kick)
Rushing -SJ: Yakely 23-110, Resto 11-65, Javier 2-1; PA: McMillian 3-21, Guthrie 4-6, Freeman 6-3, O’Neal 4-1, Nazario 1-minus 1
Passing – SJ: Cocozziello 11-22-0-213; PA: O’Neal 6-14-3-54, Guthrie 0-2-0-0, Sacedo 0-1-0-0
Receiving – SJ: Papa 5-139, Epstein 2-21, Sot 1-20, Scull 1-16, Resto 1-12 McDuffie 1-5; PA: Davison 1-18, McMillian 1-18, Nazario 2-16, Rosario 1-2