By MICHAEL LETENDRE
The St. Paul football was a pretty young squad in 2011 but just after one season, the Falcons are back into the thick of things.
There’s no easy game in Naugatuck Valley League play but St. Paul is waiting and prepared for every challenge.
The Falcons are looking for a bounce back year in 2012 and here’s what to expect:
Head Coach: Jude Kelly (29-43 in seven seasons at St. Paul)
2011 record: 1-9 in Naugatuck Valley League action (defeated Hamden Hall to finish the season on a high note)
Strength: Experience at several skill positions.?
Weakness: Youth, small numbers.
Key Losses: Tucker Bachand (WR/QB/LB); Justin Gonzalez (WR/DB/S); Andrew Frank (OL/DL); Zak Swanson (DL); Kevin Rourke (DL); James Wilson (OL/DL); James Wilson (T); Tim Jalbert.
Players to Watch in 2012: Logan Marchi (jr., QB); Jordan Rowley (sr., RB/S); Geun Park (sr., PK/LB); Solomon Mciver (sr., LB); Mike Skorupski (sr., G); Ben Stump (jr., G); Blake Haskins (sr., CB); Nathan Berry (jr., defense); Brendan Carroll (so., WR/DB); Daija Fitzpatrick (so., WR), Reid Morin (so., WR); Jose Silva (so., LB/DB); Eli Roberge (sr., DL).
Analysis: In 2011, the young Falcons took its lumps in a grueling campaign.
Now, it’s time for a little payback.
The St. Paul football squad only graduated a handful of players from the 2011 team.
Admittedly, for a small school, it was a big chunk but, with a new season upon the Falcons, the pieces are already in place for a breakout season.
“We struggled last year with some things,” said St. Paul coach Jude Kelly. “We were young and you can make excuses for things but the point was that we had a core of young kids that were buying into the system and what we were trying to do. They’ve done an outstanding job with the kids that are with us now in terms of the off-season.”
With the off-season in the rearview mirror, the Falcons are looking ahead and have a little more experience this time around.
And with junior quarterback Logan Marchi in place, the Falcons have real reason for optimism.
“He did a lot of good things last year and I think this year, he’s much more mature,” said Kelly of Marchi. “He played basketball (last year) but he got into the weight-room after basketball practice, worked hard in the spring, had a great spring practice, worked hard all winter, went to some camps this summer to worked on his quarterback techniques…I think the mental part of his game has improved as much or more than his physical parts of the game.”
In 2011, Marchi launched 336 passes – connecting on 164 – for an outstanding 2,419 yards and 26 touchdowns strikes.
He showed genuine ability to move the chains and certainly grew into that position since his freshman season.
But more than a couple receivers spent 2011 helping Marchi look good.
One of those players was Justin Gonzalez, who made 72 catches for an impressive 1,311 yards and 13 touchdowns.
But this season, a group of underclassmen return to be Marchi’s targets once again.
Reid Morin, Brendan Carroll, and Daija Fitzpatrick are a trio of wide receivers that have grown up with Marchi and now the offense is looking to once again shine through with the best of the NVL.
“They are sophomores that are playing like juniors right now,” said Kelly of his trio of receivers. “They understand the game, they worked with Logan, and the timing of that is really starting to pay off.”
The trio nearly racked up 800 yards in receiving to go along with 10 touchdowns.
But if the Falcons can add a running component, the offense will be that much more diversified.
That’s where senior running back Jordan Rowley comes into play.
Rowley is a bulldog who has the ability to carve out his own space on the field.
In 2011, he made 73 carries for 525 yards and is a viable option on the field and a very solid change of pace player.
“We’re hoping that Jordan plays to his potential because he’s a strong, tough kid,” said Kelly of Rowley. “We’re counting on him to come and play hard every week, to work with us, and do all the things he’s capable of doing. If he can do those things, it will balance the passing game with a good, strong running game.”
Rowley also collected four rushing touchdowns last season and getting the Falcons’ running game into shape is ever so important.
The biggest problem last year for St. Paul was on the defensive end as the young squad certainly had its trouble against the NVL powers.
Opponents netted 41 or more points in six of the Falcons’ 10 games in 2011.
But the Falcons are off to a much better defensive start this year and those schemes at stopping opposing runners and receivers will have an impact in 2012.
“Coach Kennedy, who is running our defense now, has taken a lot of pride in that and the kids in the preseason are running to the ball much better (and) our tackling is better,” said Kelly. “Basic attitude and fundamentals will get you a long way. I think the attitude of the defense and the fundamentals of the game, our coaches have done an outstanding job of instilling the value of being fundamental sound, playing hard and running to the football.”
“Those things are starting to pay off.”
Defensively, players such as sophomore Jose Silva, senior’s Guen Park, Eli Roberge, and Solomon Mciver made big plays in 2011 and should be even better during the 2012 campaign.
Nothing will be easy this season in looking at St. Paul’s NVL schedule but the Falcons could be off to a good start as Derby and Crosby are the Falcons first two opponents.
St. Paul will also tackle Torrington, Woodland, Kennedy, and Sacred Heart later in the year.
Everything will be a challenge for St. Paul but there’s nowhere to go but up for the Falcons.
“You’re going to see improvement…we’re going to be a better football team,” said Kelly. “I would like to think we execute better, that we’re more disciplined, that we play as a unit and play as a team and have bonded together as a football unit the way teams are supposed play.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE