by Nicholas Williams
A dropped endzone pass separated the 2011 St. Thomas Eagles football team from their first state championship game berth in 11 years, and brought an end to their season.
Now, the Eagle football team is geared up and ready for another shot.
Last year’s team notched a record of eight wins and six losses after winning the program’s first playoff games since 2005.
Despite success, a coaching change was made in the spring, as defensive coordinator Tim Fitzpatrick was promoted to head coach.
On offense, expect to see an attack mainly from the shotgun, which will showcase two receivers, a tight end, fullback and a running back most of the time. The Eagles will have a run first mentality.
On defense, expect to see the same dominating 4-3 formation as last season, with a safety at times creeping up to make it more of a 4-4.
This season’s team is loaded athletically, with potential Division-1 recruits Parker White and Alex Snyder anchoring the defensive and offensive lines respectively. “Both the defensive line and the offensive line are the strongest parts of our team,” Snyder said.
This is definitely the case for the defensive line, a unit that returns three starters.
Senior newcomer Reed Hogan also looks to make an impact for this unit.
Another strong area of the team is the running back corps. While the team is losing last year’s leading rusher, Derek Martin, the drop off should be minimal.
Former starting quarterback and last year’s second leading rusher, junior Chris Zook, along with junior Andre Pradia Jr., will be the two featured backs.
The Eagles quarterback situation could be problematic, especially since the senior starter Justin Sebo left the team after dealing with concussion issues.
Expect to see either senior Pearson Garnett or junior Michael Reul take over the reins at the position.
The receiving corps looks to have plenty of depth.
However, the unit looks to be lacking a real playmaker with both the two top targets from last season, Miles Lerch and Cavan Biggio, not returning.
Look for returning lettermen senior Colin Caram and junior Doug Sauter to be vital to the team’s success.
Caram, who was made a starter mid-season, proved to be consistent.
Sauter, who is famous for his last-second touchdown catch to send the first round playoff game against Dallas Bishop Lynch into overtime, is looking to have a breakout year. Sauter only saw rotational playing time last year, but has the height and athleticism to be a deep threat.
The linebacking corps is full of fresh faces. There are no returning starters at the position.
While this could be an area of concern for the Eagles, there is plenty of talent on display. Look for this to be a unit which might struggle early, but can find its groove going into district play.
While there is no longer “Lerch Island” in the secondary, there are plenty of contributors ready to fill the void.
The secondary will depend on a mix of returning contributors and inexperienced newcomers.
“Right now it’s me and [senior] Max [James], but I think we are solid,” Caram said. “We are most accustomed [to playing cornerback], but other people are learning the position well; and we are going to need them to step up.”
Indeed, it will be necessary for other members to step up, as the secondary will be tested often. Pass happy teams fill the schedule, including Huffman Hargrove High School, whose leading passer, Preston Townley, threw for over 2,500 yards in 2011.
District rival St. Pius X High School and their vaunted aerial attack, led by senior Texas A & M commit Kohl Stewart, are sure to test the secondary as well.
However, the cornerbacks will have help led by Garnett at strong safety.
Special teams should be solid for the Eagles, as senior return specialist Harrison Heck looks to build off of the success he enjoyed at the end of last season.
Punting duties belong to Sauter and sophomore Jack Brady is in charge of kicking duties.
The pieces are in place for another playoff run as there is continuity in the coaching staff and on both sides of the ball.
“I have a lot of faith in the team,” Zook said. “We have the chance to make a deep run in the playoffs and to contend for the state championship.”