By Rubin E. Grant
Entering his third season as John Carroll Catholic’s head football coach, Logan Colafrancesco is hoping a step down will be a step up.
The Cavaliers are moving down to Class 5A after going 4-36 in four years in Class 6A, including 3-7 in 2017.
John Carroll will compete in Class 5A, Area 4 along with Briarwood Christian, Fairfield, Parker, Pleasant Grove, Ramsay, Wenonah and Woodlawn.
“We’re excited about the move,” Colafrancesco said. “I feel like we can be more competitive in 5A, even though it’s a tough region.”
In his first two seasons, Colanfrancesco focused on developing relationships among coaches and players. This year, he said, he wants to win more football games and establish a winning culture.
“The kids understand the expectations and understand what we’re trying to do,” Colafrancesco said.
The Cavaliers have increased the number of players on their roster by nearly 20 athletes.
“I had to order eight new helmets,” Colafrancesco said as preseason practice opened. “We’ve got 55 players and may end up with close to 60, including freshmen. That will help us tremendously.”
The Cavaliers will feature plenty of youth. Sophomore Nicholas Sellers will be the starting quarterback. He played some last year and threw for more than 500 yards.
“He’s a student of the game and he wants to do well,” Colafrancesco said.
Sophomore Jharad Johnson will serve as Sellers’ backup.
“He’s got a good arm,” Colafrancesco said. “He hasn’t learned the system as well as Nicholas, but we feel comfortable that he will be able to do the things we need him to do to help us win a game. He’ll play some free safety, too.”
The Cavaliers will employ a committee of running backs with senior Zach Elliott heading the group.
“He’s a great kid who does whatever we ask him to do,” Colafrancesco said. “He’s a typical hard-nosed high school player. He’ll play some linebacker, too.”
Senior Mark Richard will be more like an H-back. Sophomore Spencer Drouin also will get some time in the backfield.
“This is (Drouin’s) first year playing for us,” Colafrancesco said. “He plays hard. He’ll play some defense as well.”
Talented freshman Aaron Mason and sophomore Jeremiah Gibbs also will get some touches.
The Cavaliers have a bevy of receivers, led by senior Sam Reed.
“He’s an explosive receiver,” Colafrancesco said. “He runs great routes, has great speed and good hands. He’ll also start at outside linebacker and play some safety.”
Sophomore Ethan Cull will split time at receiver and defensive back.
The outside receivers are sophomore O’Neal Merchant, senior Jackson Jeffery, juniors Isaiah Ambroise and Brock Sanders, freshmen Campbell McFadden and Bryant Flemming, and Luke Harris, who played basketball and decided to come out and play football this fall.
Junior center Graham Russell anchors the offensive line.
“He’s solid and does a great job coming off the ball,” Colafrancesco said.
Assessing the rest of the starters on the line, Colafrancesco said junior guard Jack Horton has played soccer and has good feet; senior tackle Gabe Wood is tough, hard-nosed and country strong; freshman guard Chris Ohagwu is an excellent athlete; and junior tackle Kingston Lampley is a smart, tough player.
Junior John Crowe at tackle, freshman Nathan Wright at tackle and sophomore John Murray Hallman at center will provide depth.
On defense, the Cavaliers will employ a 3-4 alignment with junior Sam Lynch and sophomore Trey Grissett playing defensive end and 250-pound freshman Tyler McFadden playing nose tackle.
“He’s a wide body who looks like a nose tackle,” Colafrancesco said.
Freshmen Zane Boackle, Jack Carlisle and 6-foot-4-inch Dexter Nevett will serve as backups at defensive end.
“We’ve got a lot of young kids who will be getting playing time,” Colafrancesco said.
The linebacking corps will include Reed, Elliott, Drouin, Wood, Richard, sophomore Mitchell Walker, junior D.J. Dunklin and freshman Greg Shunnarah.
In the secondary, Ambroise, sophomore Mauree Raby and sophomore Kaleb Bryant will play cornerback.
Multiple guys will play safety, including Johnson, Cull and Harris.
Junior Nick Bodin will handle the place-kicking and punting duties.
“He transferred from Hoover and had to sit out last year,” Colafrancesco said. “He’s got a very strong leg.”
John Carroll will play host to St. Clair County in its season opener on Aug. 24, visit Leeds Aug. 31 and travel to Fairfield for its first region game Sept. 7.
“We’re a very young football team,” Colafrancesco said. “We hope to continue to build this season and for the future.”