Kanye Udoh felt like a dog locked in a cage.
The St. Augustine sophomore running back was forced to watch his team from the sideline for the first four games of the season, ruled ineligible after transferring from St. Joseph. He wasn’t the only Hermits player to feel that way.
Junior linebacker and running back Angelo Vokolos and sophomore wideout and cornerback Carnell Davis also missed games -- Vokolos for transferring from St. Joseph, and Davis for enrolling from Eau Gallie High School in Florida after playing for Absegami last season.
“It was really frustrating, it really did hurt,” Davis said Sunday. “I said, ‘When I come back, I’m going to try and make the biggest impact to help us win.’”
Davis stayed true to his word, and Udoh and Vokolos followed.
Since the trio have become eligible to play, St. Augustine has won three straight to improve to 4-3 overall and 1-2 against West Jersey Football American opponents. The Hermits have beaten teams by a combined score of 90-10 in that stretch.
“When I could finally play, they released that dog [in me],” Udoh said. “I was so excited to get out there on that field.”
Davis considered a return to Absegami or transferring to Cedar Creek when he moved back to New Jersey from Florida. But he chose St. Augustine because he knew the school would help him prepare academically and athletically for college.
Udoh and Vokolos shared Davis’ sentiments.
“It’s not as stressful as past schools, especially public schools,” Vokolos said. “You have help, you have teachers trying to help you, counselors trying to help you. It’s great.”
With Davis, Udoh, and Vokolos on the field, the Hermits have more firepower on offense.
Davis, rated a three-star wide receiver by Rivals and 247Sports.com, has more than 20 scholarship offers, including Baylor, Auburn, Penn State, West Virginia, and Boston College.
Through three games, Davis has 240 receiving yards and four touchdowns, both of which rank first on the team. He also has 10 catches.
Udoh leads the team in rushing with 339 yards on 58 carries and one touchdown.
Neither Davis or Udoh scored in St. Augustine’s 21-7 victory over Holy Spirit last week, but their presence allowed sophomore running back and wideout Nasir Hill and the rest of the offense to be effective.
“We all really help each other out,” Udoh said. “It makes it harder for opposing teams to try and figure out a game plan on how to stop all the playmakers on the field.”
Vokolos plays some running back, but he does most of his damage on defense. He has helped the Hermits limit opponents to just 10 points over the last three games, and he ranks second on the team in tackles with 39, including six tackles for loss.
Vokolos, who has received interest from Virginia Tech, Princeton, James Madison, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Temple, Penn State, Michigan State, and Ohio State, said he’s playing with a vengeance after missing his sophomore year with leg and foot injuries.
“I felt like I have a chip on my shoulder, to prove a lot of people wrong and a lot of people right,” Vokolos said.
While Davis, Udoh, and Vokolos sat out the early games, they helped their teammates with the game plans. Instead of taking reps with the first- or second-team offenses, they practiced with the scout team.
During the week of the game against St. Joseph, Udoh impersonated Wildcats speedy running back Jada Byers for the first-team defense. Byers had both scores that game for St. Joseph, but the Hermits held the Panthers to their lowest scoring performance of the season in a 28-12 victory.
Udoh said he also gave his fellow running backs advice on the sideline.
“That says a lot, because most kids would probably sit back and just wait until they’re eligible, but not these three kids,” St. Augustine coach Pete Lancetta said. “They went at it hard.”
Lancetta likes to take it one game at a time, but the three transfers said the Hermits are starting to click at the right time before the playoffs. St. Augustine will face division-rival Cherokee on Friday, with a chance to improve their winning streak to four games.