Top-ranked St. Joseph used a strong second half to defeat Fairfield Warde, 44-6, before a large crowd at Ludlowe’s Taft Field on Friday night.

David Summers threw for four touchdowns and ran for another, as coach Joe Della Vecchia’s 2-0 Cadets fought off a strong effort by the Mustangs.

“This was a trap game,” Della Vecchia said of playing a 1-0 Warde team after knocking off No. 1 New Canaan a week earlier. “I told them all week, I told them before we got on the bus, and that’s what happened.”

Warde’s Jeff Stegano’s intercepted a Summer’s pass on the game’s first play to give coach Duncan DellaVolpe’s Mustangs the ball at the Cadets’ 45-yard line.

“Our defensive front people played well,” Della Vecchia said.

The front seven — Cayden Porter, Jermaine Williams, Michael Morrissey, Kyren Jones (up front), Jesse Lawson, Alex Pagliarini and Cole daSilva — forced a three-and-out.

St. Joseph then went on a 66-yard, 10-play drive that saw Warde fighting to defend every yard.

Three times the home team dropped negative-yardage plays on the locals, but each time the Cadets found a way to keep possession.

On 4th-and-3 from the 45, Summers ran a keeper to the right and followed a block by Jaden Shirden for a 24-yard gain.

Will Diamantis caught his second pass in the series, this one good for 16 yards to the 5.

Brady Hutchison led a defensive swarm to make it 2nd-and-goal from the eight, and on the next snap a quarterback sack by Joe Gjinaj led to an intentional grounding penalty.

Summers picked himself off the turf and threw a perfectly timed 20-yard touchdown pass to Diamantis.

Luke Kirby kicked the first of his seven conversion kicks with 5:10 gone in the contest.

Porter and Morrissey had stops to get the ball back.

It took only one play for St. Joseph to get on the board again.

Shirden took a screen pass and followed blocks by Chris Kiley, Nick DiIorio and Dennis Elrod for a 52-yard score.

After a Morrissey sack, Warde's junior quarterback Joey Gublin saw Ahren Ramirez pick up a blitz and Jon Gladstone catch a tough pass over the middle.

A pass interference penalty gave Warde a new set of downs, and a fabulous catch while getting hit by Connor Burt moved the marker.

Gublin showed off his quick release to negate the pass rush and found Will Stearns for 11 yards and a first down at the Cadet 46.

Two plays later, as the second period got underway, Gublin was on target to Seganos, who made an over-the-shoulder catch with a defender draped on him for a 37-yard pickup to the 7.

Gublin caught Seganos coming out of the break near the pylon for a 7-yard score with 11:25 left in the half. The PAT was wide.

St. Joseph’s third touchdown was set up by its special teams, as Kirby’s angled punt was downed at the 16. Three plays later, Lawson recovered a fumble on the 22.

Summers stood tall, with Gjinaj and Chris Idieu in his face and trusted Diamantis to make a play over the middle. Diamantis went up between two defenders to pluck the ball out of the air for a first down on the two.

After a false start penalty, Diamantis hauled in a 7-yard TD pass with 7:39 remaining in the second period.

Gublin looked to match Summers’ heroics.

He connected with Gladstone for 10 yards and with Stefanos for a tackle-breaking 18-yard gain to the St. Joseph 33. On 4th-and-11, he hit Stefanos at the marker for a 12-yard gain and a new set of downs on the 22.

A middle screen went awry for Warde, however, as daSilva intercepted the ball at the 21.

Given a clean pocket, Summers completed a 30-yard pass to a sliding Ace Luzietti to the 4.

A fumble on the handoff exchange was recovered by Warde’s Rey Idieu.

The euphoria on the Warde side lasted only one play, as daSilva tackled Chris Idieu in the end zone for a two-point safety with 49 seconds remaining.

St. Joseph took a 23-6 lead into the locker room.

Midway through the third quarter the game changed — and not for the better.

Gublin carried the ball around the right side and a hit out of bounds sent him reeling.

The 15-yard penalty moved the ball to the Cadets’ 48, but the drive stalled as Gublin was unable to return to the game.

What had been a competitive hard-hitting contest turned contentious.

Without Gublin, Warde’s offense was limited and St. Joseph took advantage.

Penalty flags and a continual separation of players by teammates with cooler heads, knowing that an ejection wasn’t worth it, made for a long third quarter.

St. Joseph added to its lead in the final period.

Summers threw a 7-yard TD pass to Diamantis with 10:22 remaining, ran for a 19-yard score with 5:24 on the clock, and Shirden rang the final bell with a 21-yard scamper through traffic with 49 ticks to go.

“We have to play Darien next week and they are the number one team as far as I’m concerned,” Della Vecchia said. “They don’t make mistakes, commit stupid penalties, and are calm under pressure.”

Notes: During the handshake line after the final whistle, a dozen Warde players gathered by the St. Joseph bench to talk things over with the Cadets, exchanged slaps on the back, and then returned to their team meeting.