Aug 27, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
At the very least, Christian Brothers Academy football games will have quite a different look when the team kicks off its 2009 season Friday against Auburn.
That stems from the new artificial surface installed at Alibrandi Stadium, which provides a stark contrast to the worn-out grass that, in years past, inevitably turned to mud in October due to all the use from CBA’s football and soccer teams.
Maybe it was time for a switch. In last year’s opening round of the Section III Class AA playoffs on the old grass, the Brothers saw three key players (Andy Phillips, Bryant Moore and Fajri Jackson) get knocked out with injures and lost a 27-26 overtime heartbreaker to Rome Free Academy.
So brought an abrupt end to what head coach Joe Casamento thought was a return to the top. CBA had gone 6-1 in the 2008 regular season, including a 21-0 shutout at Henninger — the team that ended up winning the sectional title.
“We thought we were the best team in the section,” Casamento said.
They might still be. Though some big names, like Phillips, Garrett Barnard and Tom Trasolini, have departed, CBA has lots of talent back and 48 players on the varsity roster, the largest number in Casamento’s 11-year tenure.
And it doesn’t hurt to practice on turf, either, for it gives the Brothers an ideal setting to work on its famed spread offense, led by two quarterbacks, Tyler Hamblin and Jared DePalma, with vast starting experience.
Hamblin started the first five games in ’08 and, when he got hurt, DePalma took over. The plan is to have Hamblin start, though DePalma is certain to see action under center, too. Either of them could also line up at wide receiver, something Joe Casamento Jr., Greg Paulus and Mike Paulus never did in their CBA days.
As is necessary with the spread offense, the Brothers have a host of receiving targets. Moore and Yosh Karbowniczak have the most experience, while Greg Thomson, John Scarpella and Pete Corasaniti join the rotation. John Dunmore returns from the Boston area to add further depth and could make an instant impact.
Jackson is a potential 1,000-yard rusher with two years of varsity experience. He doesn’t work alone, either, as Cirro Nicoletti-Watson and sophomore newcomer Anthony Bunn plan to run whenever Jackson needs a breather.
Three starters return on a big, imposing CBA offensive line — tackle Andrew Frasier (the little guy at 215 pounds), guard Christian Bersani (260 pounds) and center Macky MacPherson (255 pounds). Ben Barrett has worked his way to 240 pounds and assumes the other tackle spot, while Dan Halladay (270 pounds) is new at guard.
If there’s any place where the Brothers will have difficulty replacing stars, it’s on the defensive front seven, where Phillips (now at Syracuse University) dominated on the line and Barnard was just as lethal at middle linebacker.
Still, CBA might be better because fewer players need to go both ways. For example, Thomson is the lone starter on the line who sees significant time on offense, while Ryan Dickey, Stew Hancock, Bob Dwyer and sophomore John McGriff can all concentrate on rushing the passer.
Mike Capella draws the crucial task of succeeding Barnard at middle linebacker. He’ll be helped by having John Greacen return at the outside spot, with another varsity veteran, Vincent Russo, at the other outside spot.
Any CBA opponent with a passing attack is going to have a tough time. Both Moore, at strong safety, and free safety Tre Williams dominate their respective positions and are getting hard looks from Division I schools. Dunmore, Bunn, Jackson and Spencer Dunn give the Brothers a deep and solid group of cornerbacks.
Casamento said that all the elements of a winning formula, from hard work to character, are in place for the Brothers, and that it’s only a question of whether his players can mesh in the right way.
“We have the makings of a great team,” he said. “But we have to get familiar with each other so that we can communicate out there on the field. We just have to play as a unit, not individuals.”