Brothers are back

Sept 1-7. 2005
VOL 124 NO. 29
Brothers are back
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Christian Brothers Academy retools, reloads

For four years, the Christian Brothers Academy varsity football team could count on not only one of the top quarterbacks in program history, but also one of the most celebrated quarterbacks in the history of New York state high school football.

Last season, the Brothers reached the pinnacle of scholastic athletics in New York with Greg Paulus under center as they claimed the Class AA state championship.

While quarterback can be looked at as a difficult position to fill, coach Joe Casamento is quick to point out that his CBA squad must account for nine vacancies on offense, including those left by all-state receivers Bruce Williams and Lavar Lobdell, both of whom will be on the Syracuse University roster this fall.

“It’s not just the quarterback, it’s what can our team do early on to get us through those first three or four so they can grow up,” Casamento said. “I think if we can mature. We’ll be pretty tough. I think it’s just the first two or three games that we’re worried about.”

The coach believes that an improved Class AA field in Section III and a return to earth for the Brothers will mean a more challenging road to the Carrier Dome, particularly in the early phase of this season. Casamento does not, however, rule out a chance for his team to live up to the standards of CBA football.

“I think the league’s a lot better. I don’t think we’re as good,” Casamento said. “So I think we’ve come back to the pack a little bit. I mean, every school can look back on a point somewhere in their history that was great and we had a great team last year. We have the potential to be great.”

The Brothers’ season starts out with a Corcoran opponent perhaps buttressed with the arrival of Ahmad Burks. According to cnyhsfootball.com, Burks was among the top recruits in Central New York as a running back for Baldwinsville, with programs such as Wisconsin, Michigan State and SU giving him a look.

Other powerhouses on the schedule include always-rugged Baldwinsville and an Auburn team that was on the cusp of breaching the elite last season. Should CBA reach the playoffs, Henninger will likely be looming on the horizon. Last season, the Black Knights offered the Brothers their stiffest challenge before the state final against New Rochelle.

If the Brothers are going to evade some early losses, Casamento believes they will have to rely on a talented, fast defense.

“I think the defense is the strength of our team,” Casamento said. “We can run, we’re athletic plus we have Mckenzie and [Adam] Drescher at the other end and he’s 6-5, 240.”

Mckenzie Mathews is a legitimate NCAA Division 1A prospect (see page 14) and Drescher will be among the more intimidating presences at defensive end in the division.

CBA’s senior defensive tackles Tom Distasio and Pat MacNamara are also quick and athletic and they are supported by solid linebackers in Mike Suits, Greg Khanzadian and Greg Hadley.

Javon Miller, Steve Peltz, Pete Giordano and Leon Saddler will likely start in the secondary and Mike Bulman is a capable reserve.

“We have some depth on defense. We’re athletic on defense and we can run,” Casamento said.

In the preseason, CBA’s coaching staff was considering two prospective starters for the quarterback position so critical to the team’s high tech passing attack.

“Our system is pretty complicated and we have two kids who are working very hard at it, Mike Paulus and Pete Giordano,” Casamento said. “Each of them has different strengths but neither of them has taken a snap at that position with the game on the line so we’re just trying to learn.”

The offensive line loses little in terms of size and ability. The starting five averages just over 255 pounds.

Casamento believes that Mark Callahan is one of the top centers in Section III. The offensive line will also feature tackles Distasio and McNamara, two-waying from the defensive side of the ball, and the guards will likely be Steve Kuhns and Matt Rainbow.

“I think we’ll be pretty good up front on the line,” Casamento said.

With an offense that often permits several receivers running an array of routes, the Brothers must have some depth in that unit.

“Our receivers are very talented, very athletic and very young,” Casamento said, balancing his praise with warning.

Matt Kinnan, Matt Halliday , Marcus Sales, Stephen Pride, Kevin Didio and Nick Trasolini will all likely see time on the field as receivers.

“We have a bunch of receivers. It’s just a question of getting comfortable with four of them and hopefully running our patterns hard so we can substitute and wear some people out with them,” Casamento said.

Casamento has confidence in an emerging group of talented backs.

“In the running back spot I think we’re very talented also,” he said. Linebackers Greg Hadley and Khanzadian will two-way at running back and Jovan Miller and Trasolini may also get some time at that position.

Youth will be an issue in those positions as well, however.

“Those four give us depth. We’re talented, we’re deep but we’re young and we just have to grow up,” Casamento said. “I wish we had a couple more weeks or a couple more teams we could play before we have to go play somebody like Corcoran, but it is what it is.”

Casamento hopes the defense can cover for the offense while it develops its sea legs in the rugged Class AA-1 Division.

“I’m hoping that our defense can keep us in games while our offense is finding out what they can do,” the coach said.

What made the 2004 edition of Brothers football so special, according to Casamento, was its desire and camaraderie.

“The key was the team stayed hungry. That was a talented team that had blown some teams out, but they stayed hungry,” the coach said. “Every day in practice they tried to get better and better and better. I’ve had a number of college coaches tell me how they couldn’t believe how much the team improved from the beginning of the season to the end of the season even though they kept winning by big margins.”

Even in the absence of that tremendous core, Casamento believes this team has the potential to be great.

“I think if this team gets better every day and plays as well as it can, that would be a successful season for me. I’d like to see these kids mature, grow up and gain some confidence and play hard. If they do that, I think they’ll be 13-0 – that’s the kind of talent I think we have this year,” he said.

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