HERMITS LEAN ON VINCENT ISOM'S PASSION AND FIERCENESS TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS
On September 15, 2023, St. Augustine’s football team faced off against West Jersey-American League rival Millville in front of a capacity crowd watching at the Hermits on-campus football stadium.
St. Augustine struggled offensively all night against a talented Thunderbolts defense.
Millville is 7-1 on the season and ranked No. 3 in Footballstories Top 20 South Jersey high school football teams.
The Hermits (No. 6 in the Footballstories Top 20 SJ teams) would go on to suffer their second loss of the season 21-7 and facing questions on how to point the still-young season in the right direction.
Any coach will tell you that in the sport of football, success starts in the trenches.
It’s hard to miss two-way lineman Vincent Isom during any game. But that night, the 6-foot-1, 280 pound two-way lineman, a four-year starter on both sides of the ball, was struggling with a sprained ankle.
Isom was platooned throughout the night in a brave effort to keep the joint as fresh as possible and get him as many snaps as he could handle without doing any further damage.
“It happened during the last scrimmage of the year against Red Bank,” Isom said after the game, obviously down from the result. “But I’ve been battling through it. As of right now, I’ve been a rotational player but right now it’s feeling good. I’m getting ready for next game and getting the ball rolling.”
It was obvious the Hermits missed the level of passion and sheer strength he brings to the scum.
“Yes it is frustrating, it's a little setback,” Isom said st the time. “With the bad ankle, I’m not as quick at taking on double teams which opens the holes for the linebackers.”
Isom quickly added, “By playoffs definitely, hopefully by next week, I’ll be 100 percent, both ways.”
Isom went on to state the obvious after scoring just seven points against Millville, three points in 3-0 win over a talented Cherokee team and 16 points in a loss to Donovan Catholic, St, Augustine needed to consistently score more points to have success.
The Hermits know they have the roster pieces to get the job done evidenced by their 51-15 win over St. Joseph Hammonton the second week of the season.
Isom said the time to reboot the season was right after the Millville game.
“Got to come in tomorrow and get the ball rolling,” said Isom who lists Indianapolis Colts All Pro guard Quenton Nelson as the NFL offensive line he admires most. “At the end of the day we’ve got to score more than seven points. We can’t win with those numbers…but we’ll get the ball rolling tomorrow and get ready for Holy Spirit.”
THE HERMITS DID MORE THAN GET READY FOR THEIR NEXT OPPONENT
As Isom’s ankle began to feel better, so did St. Augustine’s offense.
The Hermits knocked off Holy Spirit 14-0, then Shawnee 24-21, then Williamstown 37-6, Eastside 30-0 and Lenape 42-10.
Isom said the team looked at itself and realized the common denominator in sports, team or individual competition…you play the way you practice.
Offensively Isom said he thought the offense getting better matchups against each other in practice helped in the “iron-sharpening-iron” area.
“I feel like we just had to take practice more seriously,” Isom said. “And give 100 percent at practice. We weren’t slacking off at the beginning of the year; but were not taking it one thousand percent serious. I think that really helped to get our offense in tune by going (in practice) against…basically the starting defensive line, one vs. one basically. I think that really helped us.
“I think [the Millville loss] was like a gut punch to wake us up, and be like…we’ve got to get our offense moving. I felt like that really helped us.”
HERMITS HEAD COACH TALKS ABOUT ISOM
In an email exchange with Footballstories Magazine, longtime St. Augustine head football coach Peter Lancetta talked about bruising lineman and his impact on the St. Augustine program.
“Vincent Isom is a four-year starter in our program and has played OG and DL the majority of the time,” Lancetta said. “He has garnered All-State honors at left guard as well as First Team honors on all of the local All-Star Teams.
“Vincent possesses all of the qualities we want in an offensive/defensive lineman; he is strong, agile, and nasty when on the field!!!
“He has been a mainstay in our program and was selected Team Captain by his peers. He is a leader and serves as the model for his teammates (esp. the younger players) to emulate.
“Due to an injury in a pre-season scrimmage, he got off to a slow start...but when he returned to near 100 percent, it's no surprise that we started on our present win streak.
“Vincent has Scholarship offers from a few schools as a result of excellence on the field and in the classroom.”
COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS ON ISOM’S RADAR
Isom said he is focused on helping St. Augustine go as far as possible in the upcoming NJSIAA - Non-Public A tournament. Their opponent will announced October 29.
But he still has to look at his options of playing football at the next level.
He has interest from several schools. The most impressive program Isom reports he has been contacted by with an offer – and this refers back to Coach Lancetta’s comment on his big man’s accomplishments in the classroom – is Brown University from the Ivy League.
Other programs Isom reports have made serious advances from include Wagner, Marist and St Anselm.
Recently Isom was highlighted in a weekly online event sponsored by Josh Friedman of Courier-Post of South Jersey. He calls it “The Underrecruited” St. Augustine senior Vincent Isom was featured recently.
"He’s everything I want in a lineman" Friedman declared.
“I would love to play at the college level,” Isom said. “It’s a dream of mine, hopefully it comes true.”
Scouts aren’t stupid. They were certainly looking to see how he handled himself while he was injured and how he responded
If the Hermits 5-0 record since the Millville loss is any indication, Isom has handled his business well.
“Always got to keep it cool,” said Isom, who lists New York Giants Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor as the NFL defensive player he most admires. “And be a leader. Sometimes it’s tough…but I’ve got to keep a clear head at the end of the day.”
ISOM AND THE HERMITS HAVE BEEN ON A ROLL SINCE THE MILLVILLE LOSS
Since that loss to the Thunderbolts, the Hermits have won five straight, and as mentioned earlier, several in convincing fashion.
The senior captain talked about some of his teammates he and Coach Lancetta would be leaning on as they get ready for the playoffs.
Running back Julian Turney is just the eighth running back in school history to run for over a thousand yards in a single season.
“He’s the best, he’s a stud,” Isom said. “Opening the holes isn’t too hard. He fits right through, gets skinny and lowers his shoulder. He’s a freak of nature. I love blocking for him.”
Isom also brought up two sophomores; Cameron Greene at left tackle, who is listed at 6-foot-7, 300 pounds and at right tackle Ethan Muller, listed at 6-2, 302 pounds.
“Our two tackles are really young, they’re sophomores, but I think they’re really learning a lot as the season goes on and are getting better and better every week.”
The Hermits also will be leaning heavily on quarterback Ryan Gambill (6-2, 175) to have success in the playoffs.
"I feel like at the beginning of the year, wasn't really playing up to his potential,” Isom said. “But once he took practice more and more serious, he really came into himself. He can really lead the team to some victories”
There are some very tough opponents in the nonpublic playoff division the Hermits will be competing in.
In 2022, St. Augustine knocked off St. John-Vianney 45-0; then got steamrolled by Don Bosco Prep 37-0.
“It’s a challenge every year, we know that,” Isom said. “They (north schools) are really good coming into the season. But it’s a challenge we welcome. We love playing these hard games. We love going up there and try and kick their butts. It’s all part of the game; it’s all part of the process. I feel like we really enjoy going up there and playing against the better teams.”
Are the Hermits (7-2) hot right now?
“I feel like it’s the perfect moment to get hot, the last three weeks, we’ve been hot. So I feel like going into the playoffs, we’ve going to have a real good shot and give the other team hell.”
The Hermits' success in the playoffs will be determined by how well they do in the trenches…it’s always about the trenches.
One thing Coach Lancetta and the rest of the St. Augustine football team can count on.
Vincent Isom will not back down from the challenge and he won’t quit. *
Email Al Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org