By Rubin E. Grant
Will Mara isn’t making any promises as he enters his second season as head coach at John Carroll Catholic.
The Cavaliers finished 5-5 in his first season at the helm of his alma mater’s football program. John Carroll reached the .500 mark for the first time since 2010, when it was 6-4.
Mara hopes 2020 was just the first step toward the heights he wants to reach, but he declared his 2021 team is a work in progress.
“Our summer was a little tough because of injuries to kids that happened in other sports,” he said. “We had to hold kids out, so we are in process.”
Despite that, there’s a buzz around the Cavaliers’ football program for the first time in years, and fans are eager to see what Mara’s bunch can do for an encore, especially with the team opening the season with four consecutive home games.
The Cavaliers will have several players going both ways, showcasing their versatility.
“We’re going to improve off last season and take it one week at a time,” Mara said.
Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the 2021 Cavaliers:
Sophomore Carson Mcfadden is slated to be the starting quarterback at the outset. He played for Mara in middle school.
“He’s been around the system and understands what we’re doing,” Mara said. “He’s a super smart kid.”
Seth Seidenfaden, who also kicks and plays receiver and running back, will play quarterback in certain packages.
McFadden’s older brother Campbell also is on hand. He’s perhaps the Cavs’ most versatile player, lining up at linebacker, defensive end and nose guard and spending time at quarterback, running back and receiver.
“You can put him anywhere,” Mara said. “He plays over the field.”
Aaron Mason returns after missing most of the past two seasons because of knee surgeries. A dynamic runner, he started as a freshman and sophomore. Since Mason isn’t 100%, he will see limited time early in the season, allowing Derrick Davis, a transfer from Hewitt-Trussville, to share the load.
Seidenfaden also is in the mix along with sophomore Brandon Rashleigh.
Versatile Quad Harrison will man all the receiver positions, wide out, slot and tight end. He’s being recruited as a tight end because of his size – 6-foot-4, 210 pounds.
“He’s athletic and has great ball kills and footwork,” Mara said.
Rounding out the group are Christian Harper, a returning starter, Max Plaia, who is a transfer, Jonah Gibbs and Campbell McFadden.
Center Davis Deason and guards Greg Shunnarah and Chase Botthof are returning starters on an experienced offensive line. David Michael Helton will also play some at guard. Jacob McMahon will start at left tackle and Jack Chandler at right tackle.
Gabe Wilbur provides depth along with Anthony Mokry.
Mara is high on his two interior lineman, Tyler Johnson (6-5, 390) and Lawrence Johnson (5-8, 180), no relation.
“Tyler — we call him ‘Big T’ — clogs up the middle and Lawrence is mean, mean, mean and quick,” Mara said.
Harrison, C.J. Wyatt, Kennedy Bonner and Alex Perrin will rotate at defensive end.
“Kennedy is a first-year player, although he’s a senior,” Mara said. “He’s athletic and a quick learner.”
McMahon and Deason are seasoned veterans at linebacker with McMahon calling all the defensive signals on the field.
A.J. Edwards and Koron Wright round out the starting linebacking corps.
Harper and Gibbs give the Cavs’ two experienced cornerbacks, with John Michael Wos and Sebastian Guerrero also slated to receive playing time.
Zach Archer returns at safety. “He understands all the coverages of the defense,” Mara said. Harrison also will line up at the position.
JP Zarzaur, the goalkeeper on the soccer team, has joined the football team and will handle the place-kicking duties. Edwards, Seidenfaden and Guerrero are vying to be the punter.