CBA football takes aim at state title

Zazzara, Salter lead Brothers in ambitious quest

— Christian Brothers Academy football quarterback J.R. Zazzara is still haunted by the state Class AA semifinal loss to Orchard Park last year. But whenever he thinks about finishing his high school football career in the Carrier Dome, he gets chills.

And with returning starters at critical skill positions on offense and defense, Zazzara and the Brothers are poised for another deep playoff run.

With the 26-14 state semifinal defeat to Orchard Park still fresh in their minds, head coach Joe Casamento said the team added depth and muscle this summer to build on last season’s 11-1 record.

“We were so small when we went against Orchard Park,” Casamento said. “We had nobody over 200 pounds on defense.”

This year, all of the starting defensive lineman and linebackers are more than 200 pounds, Casamento said. Aaron Donalson, an all-state defensive lineman who also plays wide receiver, said the team really worked a lot on their core as well.

Not only is CBA bigger, they’re also faster, especially the receivers, tailbacks and secondary. Andre Dowdell is a smaller hybrid receiver that can also play in the backfield.

Casamento teaches all his speedy running backs to also be receivers. When CBA runs the no-huddle offense, Casamento said having hybrid backs like Dowdell allows them to seamlessly switch from a three-backfield formation to a five-receiver set.

Donalson, receiver/cornerback Gideon Dixon and freshman receiver Noah Jordan Williams are all at least 6 feet tall, giving Zazzara the ability to throw the long ball if he needs to.

Zazzara, who verbally committed to play for the University of Buffalo (after originally committing to play lacrosse at Syracuse University), is a dual threat quarterback whose ability to run the ball opens up the offense.

CBA runs the read-option offense, and Zazzara said the team added to the already expansive playbook. And returning so many players on offense, especially running back Deshawn Salter, really helps the team get back to its winning ways early on, Zazzara said.

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