Aug 26, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Almost from the moment Riley Dixon’s game-winning field try drifted wide of the goalposts in the waning seconds of last November’s Section III Class AA final, the Christian Brothers Academy football team pointed toward 2011 and a shot at redemption.
Baldwinsville pulled out that title game, 15-13, just as it had beaten CBA the year before in the same spot in the Carrier Dome. Combined with a pair of memorable regular-season encounters, that marks four classic battles between the Brothers and Bees.
And when this season opens Friday at Alibrandi Stadium – well, CBA will be facing B’ville again. It’s a game that, for better or worse, will help to define whether the Brothers can win it all this time around.
Head coach Joe Casamento, entering his 13th season at the CBA helm, said that the camaraderie among his players is as good as it was for his other championship teams of the past.
“There’s a tightness to this group,” he said. “They’re motivated to do as well as they can. You have to have that to be successful.”
CBA’s signature spread offense had a slightly different look in the last three years with Tyler Hamblin at quarterback, as he ran as much as he threw – in fact, he led the Brothers in rushing in 2010.
Now, with Cameron MacPherson taking over for Hamblin, it might look similar to what the Joe Casamento Jr. and Greg Paulus-led teams did in the early part of the millennium.
At 6-5 and 212 pounds, MacPherson is tall, powerful and can throw deep downfield. Casamento also praised his quarterback’s mechanics and intelligence, as MacPherson is a straight-A student.
Of CBA’s receivers, the most concern is about Evan Adamo, who returned a punt for a touchdown in the sectional final against B’ville. Adamo injured his ankle playing lacrosse this spring, and he’s still recovering, but could be ready for the rematch with the Bees.
As usual, the Brothers have lots of options at receiver, with Jack Pfohl, Kirby DarDar and Cody Radziewicz lining up next to Adamo. And when running backs Anthony Bunn and Mike Vavonese are not in the backfield, they’ll take their turns in the slots, too.
A big strength for the Brothers this fall is an offensive line that returns four starters, none better than 6-5, 270-pound Ben Barrett. Already verbally committed to Syracuse University, Barrett is considered one of the state’s top linemen.
“He plays with the intensity of a smaller guy, and he’s a leader,” said Casamento.
Homer Davis, at 220 pounds, returns at the other tackle spot, and both of the guards, Jess Drazek (210 pounds) and John Hillenbrand (270 pounds), also come back. Christian Damico is the only new starter, at center, but he knows how to handle the long snaps, having done so on punts last year.
Casamento said he is “excited about our defense”, which has six returning starters. The secondary is strong enough with Bunn at cornerback and fast-improving junior Ben Capella at safety, but they’ll get help from Adamo, Vavonese, Jon Stackhouse, J.R. Zazzara, Gideon Dixon, Shane Murphy, Brian Anderson and freshman Andre Dowdell.
Up front, there’s more depth. Incumbent starters Jon McGriff (end) and Dan Predmore (tackle) are joined by Davis, Barrett, Hillenbrand, Alex Roost and Zach Sealy. The return of Sealy is a welcome sight, since he missed 2010 with a back injury. Joey Pascarella and Dametrius Brown return at linebacker. DeShawn Salter, a top track athlete, replaces the departed Vince Russo.
The showdown with B’ville is one of just three home games for the Brothers, who also play reigning Massachusetts state champion Mansfield Sept. 9 in the Carrier Dome. A trip to Liverpool Sept. 23 is the first of three consecutive road outings.
Of course, it all starts this Friday against B’ville. Unlike 2010, when they clashed at the end of the regular season (in a mud-filled game at Pelcher-Arcaro Stadium that CBA won 14-10), the showdown happens at the start, in tame weather conditions and on CBA’s clean artificial surface.
Whatever happens there, though, Casamento said his team’s long-terms success hinges on staying healthy and on whether MacPherson can make a quick adjustment to leading the offense. Certainly, all the pieces are in place for another serious title push.