There’s no time to rest for the St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy football team during its preseason preparation.
The Wolves need to build stamina due to their small roster, so they zip from one drill to the next. St. Joseph’s has 18 players, the same number that cost the Wolves in the second half of games in their inaugural season.
St. Joseph’s still managed to go 4-6 in 2013 — and learned a valuable lesson for Year 2.
“We started out last year and the kids were pumped and we wanted to keep them excited about it,” St. Joseph’s coach Dave Carson said. “We really had no idea what we’d do; 4-6 to us last year was a great season. We kind of hung around in every game. We kind of just because of numbers started to run out of gas in the third, fourth quarter. But this year we’re really, really conditioning, trying to get ourselves to the third and fourth quarter, (so) we’re not out of gas.”
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Carson said the Wolves have the talent to match their 2013 season with a similarly limited roster.
St. Joseph’s will be playing its home games at Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School in Altoona.
“This year we’re just going to have to live with it,” Carson said, “and we’re going to make it our home field.”
The Wolves will rely on new starters in the backfield.
Carson said Phillip Fenstermacker, who started at quarterback as a junior, has decided to focus on his baseball career. Last year’s running back and leading rusher Kahsim Buey has transferred to Williamsport.
Senior Jack Driscoll will take over at quarterback.
Carson expects Garrett Walters to emerge as an explosive running back in his first season on the team. Walters quickly made an impression and excelled during St. Joseph’s scrimmages.
“It took me about half a practice to find Garrett Walters and figure we need to give him the football,” Carson said. “In some ways it’s almost just like Kahsim. I was sad to see him leave, but I’m real excited to see Garrett step in there.”
Mike Jabco will be another key playmaker in the Wolves’ offense at wide receiver.
“Mike’s a big-time player,” Carson said. “He’s 6-4, 200-something, very fast, great hands, coachable. The kid’s just got everything. I think last year he was second-team all-state punter believe it or not, so he brings a lot to the table. There’s a lot you can do with somebody like Mike.”
Trent Fye is the lone returner on the offensive line. Titus Tice will be transitioning to the line.
Freshmen Dexter Gallishaw and Rocco Chirreleison and junior Michael Kresovich are also set to see time at wideout. Chirreleison could be a backup running back. With such a small roster, Carson said his players need to learn two or three different positions.
“They’re utility guys,” Carson said. “They’ve got to learn two or three different positions.”
Carson needs the same playmakers on offense to lead the defense.
Carson said Fye and Tice will spearhead the defense at linebacker along with Austin Emel.
On the defensive line, Jabco and Chirreleison will line up at the ends, and Noah Peeler is set to play at nose guard. Gallishaw and Kresovich will line up at cornerback.
The Wolves’ dependence on the same players on both sides of the ball underscores the need to focus on conditioning during the preseason.
They quickly realized that last season. In their first loss in September, St. Joseph’s was outscored 21-0 in the second half of a 42-20 defeat to Towanda. One week later, the Wolves went into halftime tied 14-14 with Coudersport only to be blanked in the second half of a 38-14 loss.
Carson said they’ve adapted their practices going into 2014.
But they’re also hustling from drill to drill. To get off to a good start, St. Joseph’s will need to be strong from start to finish.
“It’s a challenge because we have a lot of freshmen,” Carson said. “We have several freshmen. Have to contribute. It’s getting them prepared. It’s that shock to them and the whole team that this is the kind of shape we have to be in, so we can survive four quarters of football.”