BY Gary Housteau
At Cardinal Mooney, head coach P.J. Fecko is excited about the leadership coming from this year’s senior class.
“Our leaders are definitely in our seniors,” Fecko said. “You’ve got Patrick Pelini, Ray Anderson, Jaylen Hewlett, Cleveland Gruber and Vinny Santisi, just to name a few.
“It’s a small senior class and they’ll all contribute,” Fecko said. “There’s also Kyle Clegg, Alex Sepesy, Chris Vivo, Joe Kopp, Pat Kay. Everyone of those seniors are going to fit in somewhere.”
Settling on a quarterback is probably the biggest concern coming into the season.
“It definitely is,” Fecko said. “We have four guys coming into camp vying for the position. We have Patrick Pelini, a senior that has some experience playing there last year.
“We have Antonio Page, who is a junior and we have two sophomores Luke Fulton and John Murphy. It’s wide open. I don’t want to cheat anyone, so we’ll see.”
A big line and a solid stable of running backs are rumored to be the strength of the Cardinals this year.
“I’d say we have an experienced line in the sense that we have four starters back,” Fecko said. “We have Vinny Santisi, Kyle Clegg, junior Alex Maxin and junior Vinny Gentile. So we have some experience there.”
But on the skill side there’s a mixture of veterans and young guys.
“Patrick Pelini has some time at quarterback and receiver, Ray Anderson has some time at running back, Cleveland Gruber has some time at running back along with Alex Sepesy and Jaylen Hewlett, and the receiver corps is kind of a new group.”
Along with Joe Kopp, junior Matt Hough and sophomores Chris Gruber, Nico Marchionda and Anthony Fire are some of the candidates vying for spots at the receiver positions.
“We definitely have to rely on the experience of our offensive line,” Fecko said. “I think that’s a very important part of our success, if we’re going to have any.”
Any defense that begins with a pair of wrecking balls like Jaylen Hewlett and Vinny Gentile up front is destined for success.
“Like on our offense, we have experience up front on our line,” Fecko said. “And our linebacking crew is experienced.”
Along with Hewlett and Gentile, Santisi returns on the line and Clegg is likely to earn some playing time there. Sepesy and Ray Anderson return at linebacker return at their linebacker spots and Antonio Page played a lot at linebacker last year. Junior Brennan Olesh is another linebacker candidate.
There’s a lot of new faces in the secondary. Pelini has experience at safety and he’ll team with returning starter Cleveland Gruber and Luke Fulton back there. At corner, returning starter Chris Gruber will pair with either junior Darrell Jackson, Matt Hough or Marchionda.
“Anthony Fire returns as our punter this year as a freshman,” Fecko said. “He was the best guy and he was able to do it. So we’re obviously looking for his experience there. But we’re going to have to find a kicker.”
Junior Julian Diaz, Pelini and Fulton are all candidates for the kicking job.
It’s been a few years, 2011 to be exact, since Mooney last hung a championship plaque on the outside of their gymnasium wall, one of eight in all.
“God willing if we stay healthy we can make a run at a successful season,” Fecko said. “Absolutely, we still break on ‘State Champions.’ That’s still the goal for everyone. But everyone understands it’s a process from double sessions, through the season and if you’re fortunate to get to the playoffs, you can make a run from there.
“But you have to take care of everything in front of you.”