St. Joseph's Jada Byers scores record-setting 10 TDs in win
(Originally published in The Press of Atlantic City on 11/23/2019)
HAMMONTON — He did it for Micah.
St. Joseph High School senior running back Jada Byers played the game of his life in the top-seeded Wildcats’ 76-22 win over fourth-seeded Morris Catholic in the state Non-Public II semifinal Saturday, scoring 10 touchdowns to set a new state single-game record.
Byers, of Bridgeton, wanted to do something special to honor 10-year-old Micah “Dew” Tennant, who died Wednesday after he was shot during the Pleasantville-Camden football game Nov. 15.
“I had the single-game record last year with six,” Byers said, referring to the most TDs in a game for a player from a Cape-Atlantic League school. “So, I just said I’ll stop at seven or eight (today) and have fun in the championship game. Then the community out here, the fans, everybody was out there saying, ‘Jada, you gotta get (the South Jersey record) today.’ That’s when I started thinking about it: I gotta get 10 for Dew.”
Byers’ 10 touchdowns broke the previous record of eight held by Pennsauken’s Martin Booker (2016), Wildwood’s Wes Hills (2012) and Florence’s Roger Morton (1950).
After his performance, Byers is now in sole possession of the South Jersey records for single-game points (60), career touchdowns (102) and single-game touchdowns (10). He passed 1996 Paulsboro graduate Kevin Harvey’s previous mark of 101 touchdowns. With 640 career points, he’s 16 points shy of Harvey’s South Jersey mark.
“To have this moment with a kid like that ... it’s just special,” Wildcats coach Paul Sacco said. “Hopefully, he’s going to be in the history books a long time down the road. It’s just special.”
Byers carried the ball 21 times for 326 yards. He added seven receptions for 194 yards.
Byers scored all five of the team’s touchdowns in the first half. He had touchdown runs of 2 and 4 yards in the first quarter, then took a handoff straight up the middle for a 55-yard score. Junior quarterback Jayden Shertel found the senior down the field for touchdown catches of 46 and 66 yards to give the Wildcats a 35-10 lead at halftime.
After touchdown runs of 16, 48, and 17 yards in the third quarter, Byers took his first carry of the fourth to the end zone from 29 yards out. With two minutes left in the game, he found one more seam on the left side and opened his stride for No. 10 on a 39-yarder. The crowd erupted at the milestone.
“What was going through my mind (when I crossed the goal line) was, ‘I just got 10 touchdowns,’” Byers said. “I really got 10. I did it for Dew. When I did it, it was just great. I ran the ball to my mom and my dad, and (it was) just an emotional day from there.”
Less than 24 hours earlier, Holy Spirit’s Patrick Smith broke Byers’ CAL record with a seven-touchdown performance in the Spartans’ 50-24 win over Hudson Catholic. The 9-1 Wildcats will face 6-4 Holy Spirit in the state championship at Rutgers University in two weeks. It will be the second year in a row the teams meet in the final.
Sacco was at Holy Spirit’s game Friday.
“It’s going to be a great game,” Sacco said. “(Smith) is a special player. He and (senior running back) E’lijah Gray in the same backfield is lethal.”
Playing for Micah
Byers wore a shirt under his pads that read, “As long as I’m alive and walking, Micah is too. #STAYSTRONG.”
Byers wasn’t the only South Jersey athlete to pay tribute to Micah this week.
After Friday’s win, Gray said the team was motivated to capture the state title in honor of Micah and late head coach Bill Walsh, who died the morning Micah was shot.
Pleasantville senior running back Ernest Howard traded his No. 2 jersey for No. 10 when the Greyhounds and Panthers resumed their game at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field on Wednesday, hours after Micah died.
Penns Grove cheerleaders held up a banner honoring Tennant on Saturday during the team’s South Jersey Group I final win against Paulsboro.