Holy Spirit holds off St. Joe

Holy Spirit's T.J. Anderson (12) tackles St. Joseph quarterback Salaam Horne in the first quarter. Anderson also led the Spartans on offense, scoring two touchdowns. BEN FOGLETTO / The Press of Atlantic City
Holy Spirit's T.J. Anderson (12) tackles St. Joseph quarterback Salaam Horne in the first quarter. Anderson also led the Spartans on offense, scoring two touchdowns. BEN FOGLETTO / The Press of Atlantic City
Posted: September 22, 2013

T.J. Anderson didn't become a quarterback until three weeks into his junior season at Holy Spirit.

He has always been a linebacker.

The versatile senior made an impact at both his new and old positions, leading Holy Spirit to a 31-28 victory over St. Joseph on Friday night in a Cape-Atlantic League American Division clash of Top 5 teams.

"This game means everything," Anderson said after the Spartans seized the high ground in the division race and earned bragging rights over their archrivals on a cool, clear night before a large crowd at Holy Spirit's Ed Byrnes Stadium.

The 6-foot, 220-pound Anderson ran for two touchdowns - including a spectacular 36-yard jaunt that turned out to be the winning score - as Holy Spirit (2-0 overall, 2-0 Cape American) rallied from a 20-19 halftime deficit.

Anderson also made a huge defensive play, sacking St. Joseph fullback C.J.LaFragola on a pitch pass on a fourth-and-8 play from the Holy Spirit 40 with the Spartans holding a 25-20 lead with 5 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the game.

"He came up huge for us," Holy Spirit two-way senior lineman Ray Ellis said of Anderson.

It was more than a little ironic that Anderson's sack of LaFragola was the key defensive play of the game. It was LaFragola's decision to transfer to St. Joseph from Holy Spirit - after quarterbacking the Spartans in a 7-0 loss to the Wildcats on Sept. 15, 2012 - that turned Anderson into a signal-caller.

All he has done is go 10-2 as a starter, win a Non-Public 2 state title last season, and make two huge plays in what might be the biggest game of the 2013 Cape-Atlantic League regular season.

"I knew I could do it," Anderson said of taking over at quarterback. "I was ready to lead my team."

Holy Spirit, the No. 3 team in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings, jumped to a 12-0 lead as St. Joseph committed turnovers on its first two possessions.

"Take away those turnovers and we're fine," St. Joseph's coach Paul Sacco said. "I told our kids, 'You'll learn a lot from this.' If they take away those mistakes, we can be a very good team down the road."

St. Joseph (1-1 overall and in the Cape American), the No. 4 team in the rankings, rallied behind sophomore quarterback Salaam Horne.

The 5-10, 165-pound Horne showed blazing speed, returning a punt 47 yards for a touchdown and turning the corner several times against Holy Spirit's highly touted defense.

Horne also threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Cody Sampson and ran for a two-point conversion to pull St. Joseph within 31-28 with 1:31 to play.

Holy Spirit's Joe DiBuonaventura made a clutch recovery of an onside kick, and the Spartans ran out the clock.

Earlier in the fourth quarter, senior running back Franco Rifici capped a drive that featured two runs for first downs by Anderson with a 29-yard burst into the end zone. That gave the Spartans a 25-20 lead.

Anderson made it 31-20 with a remarkable scoring run, busting through the line and hurdling a would-be tackler in the secondary on his way to the end zone.

"I've done that a lot of times," Anderson said of his hurdle. "But this was a big game. That was a big play."

St. Joseph 0 20 0 8 – 28

Holy Spirit 12 7 0 12 – 31

HS: TJ Anderson 3 run (kick failed)

HS: Dandre Dennis 38 run (kick failed)

SJ: Cody Sampson 3 run (kick failed)

SJ: Salaam Horne 47 punt return (run failed)

HS: Dennis 21 run (Franco Rifici kick)

SJ: CJ LaFragola 1 run (Chris Carey pass from Ricardo Quirindongo)

HS: Rifici 29 run (run failed)

HS: Anderson 36 run (pass failed)

SJ: Sampson 27 pass from Horne (Horne run)


Contact Phil Anastasia

at panastasia@phillynews.com. Follow @PhilAnastasia

on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports,"

at www.inquirer.com/

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