Sept. 9-15, 2004
Cream of the Crop
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Christian Brothers Academy Football Team Brimming with Talent
There was a time when upstate New York was known as a barren recruiting zone for football. A Dorsey Levens here, the odd Marquise Walker there, but never a consistent source of NCAA Division I football talent.
This year, Christian Brothers Academy can boast not just one Division I prospect, but five, as confirmed by head coach Joe Casamento. Quarterback Greg Paulus was long the talk of college recruiting before committing to Duke University to play basketball. Since then, however, a number of Brothers players have garnered as much interest from Division I programs. Among them are wide receivers Lavar Lobdell and Bruce Williams, defensive lineman Dario Arezzo, and fullback and linebacker Brian Bojko.
For a tiny private school in Dewitt to feature such capable athletes is no small feat. Casamento says that hard work and an enthusiasm for hard work were the qualities that yielded the gaze of top-level programs. He elaborated that the seniors who were in the program six years ago when he arrived established a legacy of excellence that is seeing results today. “When I got here six years ago, I told the seniors then that they would be responsible for the next four or five or six years of what would happen,” the coach relayed. “It shows you the kind of work ethic that they’ve got. It’s the tone that they set that’s made us better every year. These kids come in and they expect to work hard. They expect to go into the weight room four or five days a week. They expect to do speed training. They expect to do nutritional work and study. They work hard.”
According to www.cnyhsfootball.com, Bojko currently has no offers, but Penn State, Syracuse University, Michigan State, and Boston College are showing strong interest. Meanwhile, Williams also has had no offers, but has received interest from such upper-echelon programs as Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Duke.
The most interesting case for the program was Dario Arezzo, whom the coaching staff originally believed might be too undersized to draw attention from the highest amateur level. “With Dario it was interesting because we weren’t really sure,” the coach said. “He’s only 6-2, 235. We weren’t really sure where he was going to play even though we knew he was a great player. We sent it to some friends of ours and they offered him. Arizona State and Wisconsin and Pittsburgh and Central Florida all offered him so I said, ‘Well, I guess size isn’t the factor that we thought it was.’”
Other than the aforementioned Paulus and Irvan Brown at Central Square, Lobdell has created the most buzz of any high school player in CNY. Lobdell has offers from Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Arizona State, and West Virginia. Meanwhile, Penn State, Virginia, Michigan State, and Virginia Tech have also shown interest. Recently, a host of other schools began joining the hunt, among them defending co-national champion USC. While Paulus has certainly been the most high profile player in Central New York, Casamento stressed that the talent around him has been exceptional. The interest being generated throughout the college ranks in the erstwhile rank and file players certainly bears that out. “It’s been great to have him, but I’ve got to tell you what, he’s surrounded by a lot of great kids on this team,” the coach said. “It’s nice to be able to talk about Greg, but, and I hate to tell you this, the quarterback that comes in next year will have stats just like him. It’s a program as much as it is Greg and that’s not to diminish Greg. He’s a great quarterback and he’s been great for us. He fits in with everybody in the program. We never feel like it’s ‘Greg Paulus.’ It’s really not that way here.”
The 2004 Campaign
CBA athletes are among everyone’s favorites to dominate Class AA football in CNY. Casamento believes that this could be a special group, one that could be among New York State’s elite. “These are the smartest, hardest working kids I’ve been around in 31 years of coaching,” the veteran coach said. “Potentially, we can beat anybody. We have speed on defense. We have physical size and strength – I think we have about 23 kids over 200. So we’re big, we’re strong, we’re in shape, we’re fairly smart, we have a couple of systems that we know offensively and defensively. We have no excuses for not being competitive with anybody. That doesn’t mean that somebody won’t run us off the field 45-0, but we should be competitive with anybody in the state.”
The key for CBA will be staying healthy through the course of the rugged Class AA season. Last year, CBA rolled into the sectional tournament only to fall to Henninger after injuries took their toll. “Getting healthy and then staying healthy [will be key],” Casamento said. “If we get healthy and stay healthy then we can be competitive. Now I don’t know that we can beat anybody, we might end up 0-8. But we could also be 8-0.”
The composition of the 2004 Brothers squad is a little different too, according to Casamento. “This team could be special. The hard thing I think sometimes is you look for chemistry sometimes in teams,” he said. “This team is very tight and they’re very likable kids. We’re not really a nasty bunch. We don’t have anybody who’s a real street fighter. So we have to do it with a little more technique and athleticism and intelligence.” CBA opened the season Sept. 3 against Corcoran. This Friday, Sept. 10, the Brothers will travel to Baldwinsville and then the following game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 17 at West Genesee.