Aug 22, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Christian Brothers Academy’s football experience in the last three seasons can be looked at two ways.
Put in one light, it’s an exercise in frustration, as the Brothers have reached the Section III Class AA finals in the Carrier Dome in 2009, 2010 and 2011, only to get beat each time – by Baldwinsville twice, and then by West Genesee in last November’s title game.
Yet CBA head coach Joe Casamento would rather characterize this run as an unqualified success, simply because it has managed to stay among the Class AA elite despite ceding numerous advantages (enrollment and roster size, among them) to their opponents.
Much the same is expected in 2012, though to have another shot at that elusive sectional title, CBA will need to get rapid maturity on both the offensive and defensive lines to complement a strong set of skill players.
“We’re younger and smaller,” said Casamento. “We must create some depth, and a lot of kids will need to play as well as they can play. If they do, we’ve got a chance to be pretty good.”
Part of CBA’s offensive evolution in recent years was a drift away from the all-out spread offense that smashed sectional and state passing records with the likes of Joe Casamento Jr., Greg Paulus and Mike Paulus in the early 2000s.
To win games against bigger and stronger opponents, said Casamento, the Brothers had to learn to control the ball for longer periods of time, which meant establishing the ground game to give the defense more of a rest.
No doubt, CBA has the personnel to stay with this strategy, even with Mike Vavonese’s departure. Deshawn Salter and Joey Pascarella both return at running back, with Pascarella’s power neatly complementing the sprinter’s speed that Salter and fellow back Dametrius Brown bring to the field.
It also might be necessary due to a change at quarterback. Cam MacPherson is now at Georgetown, so junior J.R. Zazzara takes over. At 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, Zazzara has all the necessary athletic tools, said Casamento, but just needs game experience to utilize them.
“He’s got good mechanics,” said Casamento. “He’s just got to learn the game.”
When he throws, Zazzara has experienced receivers to find, as Jake Pfohl, Cody Radziewicz and Matt Malvasi return to start. When the Brothers go to those four and five-receiver sets, Gideon Dixon and Andre Dowdell join them.
Up front, with All-State lineman Ben Barrett now at Syracuse University, others will need to step up. There is some experience here, with Christian Damico (210 pounds) at center, plus Alex Rost (235 pounds) and John Hillenbrand (265 pounds) working at tackle or guard. Sophomore John Phillips (230 pounds) could emerge as a standout tackle.
More concerns are raised on the defensive line, where replacing the likes of Jon McGriff, Dan Predmore and Homer Davis is a major task. Hillenbrand and Rost will see time at tackle, while Aaron Donaldson and Keegan O’Hern step into the end spots.
By contrast, there’s plenty of depth at linebacker, where Pascarella has been a standout since his sophomore year, and where Salter and Brown will work, too, joined by Jack Alexander and Kane Alletzhauser.
Injured for most of 2011, Ben Capella is now healthy, and joins Radziewicz at safety, anchoring a secondary where there are plenty of options at cornerback, including Dixon, Dowdell, J.P. Romagnoli and Sean McGraw.
CBA joins West Genesee in the reconfigured Class AA-2 division, with a sectional finals rematch slated for Sept. 20 in Camillus. Corcoran, Henninger, Central Square and Cicero-North Syracuse complete the league roster.
But the Brothers open with non-league games against Nottingham and Utica Proctor. Casamento said that gives him and his fellow coaches ample time to evaluate his players and see what works before league play begins, and the quest to take that final step to a championship resumes again.
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