Northern New Jersey high school football is about as good as it gets.
The team out of that region ranked highest in our current High School Football America Poll is No. 7 St. Joseph Regional out of Montvale.
It’s a tight race, however, for head coach Augie Hoffmann and the Green Knights as four out of the five other teams in their conference are ranked in the top 35 of the poll. That means in just under a one month’s span, St. Joe’s will play No. 11 St. Peter’s Prep, No. 15 Bergen Catholic, No. 28 Don Bosco Prep and No. 31 Paramus Catholic.
“I don’t think the tensions get any higher than they are right now,” said Hoffmann. “When you have five of the six teams in the league that are in the top , that just goes to show you how strong New Jersey football is…show me another league in the country that has that.”
To be clear, there isn’t one.
The Green Knights will therefore have little room for error on their loaded schedule if they hope to repeat as the state’s Non-Public Group 3 champions.
Doing so rests heavily on the helms of three year starting quarterback and Pittsburgh commit, Nick Patti. As a junior last season, the team’s 6’ 3”, 200 lb. gunslinger completed 98 of 167 passes for 1,737 yards, throwing 15 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Hoffmann is expecting Patti’s game to be elevated to an even greater level this year.
Making an equally exciting return on offense is fellow Pittsburgh commit Matt Alaimo, a guy Hoffmann calls “practically un-guardable” as a 6’ 4 ½”, 230 lb. tight end who excels both at blocking and running routes.
Opposing defenses will also have a difficult time shutting down Patti and the St. Joe’s offense with senior wideouts Yasir Berry and Fara’ad Mccombs back to catch passes downfield and Isaiah Hopkinson coming out of the backfield.
Both talent and speed also return in the back seven on defense, led by Boston College commit Evan Stewart at linebacker and the team’s quick defensive end Howard Cross.
While the skill players are set to have another great season for St Joe’s, holes will need to be filled upfront on both sides of the ball in order to find success. The Green Knights will look for some of the big guys to step up after the team graduated four of the five guys on the offensive line and three of the four on the defensive.
Hoffmann knows this means that the team’s new starters will have to learn quickly.
“Our young guys have to not play like young guys. We have to fill in the spots and we have to move fast,” said Hoffmann.
It will be seen if the up and coming players at St. Joe’s can match the talent of their returning starters when the season kicks off on today against No. 68 Deerfield Beach from Florida. The Green Knights won’t waste any time as they add to their already daunting conference schedule and begin the regular season with two out-of-state opponents also ranked in our Top 100. After Deerfield Beach, St. Joe’s follows that up against a team who handed them one of their only two losses last season in No. 30 St. John’s College out of Washington D.C.
Despite being hit with those two out-of-conference matchups, Hoffmann says the main focus remains on what is waiting for them in their own backyard.
“It’s all about New Jersey for us,” said Hoffmann. “We want great competition, we want to win all the games we play, but you know when we step back in the state, that’s when it gets real.”
by Kathryn Gallo
High School Football America Writer