The school’s showcase, filled with championship hardware, is a constant reminder of how impressive the St. Anthony’s football program has been. The Friars won 11 Catholic High School Football League AAA titles in the 13 seasons from 2001-13.
Since then, the Friars have been shut out of a championship game appearance — a fairly surprising fate that the fabled program would like to change.
With an inexperienced secondary and new offensive line, the Friars will rely on their solid defensive front seven, led by senior lineman Dan Lord and senior linebacker Charles Barsella, to find their way back to the title game.
“We have been working hard in the offseason,” said Barsella, who had 103 tackles last year.
“It’s about this year and looking forward.”
The players know they can’t do much about the past. But with Lord, who made 52 tackles and totaled eight sacks and a stout defensive line led by junior Nick Greer, who added 31 tackles as a sophomore, the Friars have a foundation to build on.
Coach Rich Reichert, in his 30th season, acknowledged that his team has some weaknesses, but said his expectations for the season remain strong.
“Our expectations are always to make the playoffs,” Reichert said. “We’ll get better as the season goes on, as the young players obtain game experience.”
The maturity of the offensive line will go a long way to helping St. Anthony’s succeed. The offense is anchored by Tyler Palminteri, who scored eight touchdowns, and receiver Andrew Hancock, who had 33 receptions for 643 yards and four scores. Hancock can stretch the defense with his speed.
In Class AA, St. John the Baptist is coming off a strong 8-2 season and likely will contend for the title. The Cougars return three starters from last year’s offensive line and three starters from its secondary. The O-line paved the way for 3,700 yards rushing and returns Jacob Woods, a 6-4 and 345-pounder and Frank Guidice, a 6-2, 255-pounder.
Guidice also had six sacks last season. He works against Woods to develop his pass-rushing skills in practice every day.
“It is best on best, we make each other better,” Woods said. “Competing against one another in practice is the best competition we’ll face all year.”
After the Cougars lost to Xavier in the AA semifinals last year, coach Ralph Carusillo mentioned that his players might have beeb a bit worn down. Carusillo made adjustments during the offseason workouts to increase his players stamina.
“We focused mainly on weight training, conditioning and building up strength in our upper body to be able to endure an 11-game season,” Carusillo said. “I think we have a very good shot to compete deep into the playoffs and if the kids work the way we want them to work, I believe we will be there on November 19th [for the championship game].”
Kellenberg and Holy Trinity will also contend for playoff spots in the AA division. The Firebirds will look to senior quarterback Joe Grimm to lead the offense after a junior season where he threw for 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns. Holy Trinity will do it on the ground behind halfback Umari Taylor, who rushed for 572 yards and nine touchdowns.
St. Dominic, buoyed by the return of linebackers James Doherty and Victor Opara, who combined for 94 tackles, will look to return to the A division playoffs. for the second consecutive season
Two Long Island teams will compete with schedules against independent opponents. Long Island Lutheran returns all but two starters from last year’s team, including Tristan Etienne, who rushed for 860 yards and six touchdowns. Junior TE/DW is already attracting interest from several major D-I colleges.
Port Washington will play an independent schedule after a difficult 1-7 season in Nassau I.