by Kyle Parmley
Logan Colafrancesco’s first win as the head football coach at John Carroll Catholic High School was a big one.
“When we won that game against Moody, you’d have thought we won the Super Bowl,” he said.
Colafrancesco knew what he was getting into at John Carroll Catholic High School. He inherited a football program that had won just three games combined in the previous three seasons, and he quickly observed “the student body was dying for a winner.”
As bleak as the situation seemed, there was no way the 1996 John Carroll Catholic High School graduate could turn down the chance to come back to his roots and reignite the green and white blood running through his veins.
“It’s a proven fact: When you care about something, you work harder for it,” said Colafrancesco, now entering his second year as head coach at his alma mater. “When you’re a part of ‘Carroll Nation,’ it just means more.”
Colafrancesco was hired late in the process, relative to a football offseason, as John Carroll had already gone through spring practice in 2016 before he came on. There was so much to do — and so little time to do it — that there were literally days when he leaned back in his chair, looked up at his to-do list on the whiteboard and didn’t know what to do next.
Fewer than 40 players made it onto the opening night roster in 2016 for John Carroll, and the Cavaliers lost their fi rst four games by an average of 43.5 points per game. But then came a win — the triumph over Moody — that gave tangible proof that progress was indeed being made.
“This is the start of something a little bit different,” Colafrancesco said. “You get the feel of the school, you get the feel of football getting a little better.
“It’s going to be a tremendous pride when we turn this program around.”
John Carroll looks to push the pace on the offensive side of the ball. But in order to run a hightempo offense, it requires in-depth knowledge of the system, familiarity with the coaching staff and the personnel to execute.
The Cavaliers should have all of those ingredients in place this fall, with a host of returning players who have had a year under Colfrancesco’s tutelage.
Senior Bailey Mara is back at the quarterback position after being thrown into the fi re last year. Mara is entrenched as the starter, but freshman Nicholas Sellers made a big impression on the coaches during the spring and inserted himself into the competition. Don’t be surprised if both see the fi eld throughout the season.
“I think they both make each other better. Whoever grabs the bull by the horns and takes it, that’s who we’re going to go with,” Colafrancesco said.
The Cavaliers have depth at the running back spot, with Demetrius Battle returning as their top runner. Colafrancesco compared him to Auburn’s Kamryn Pettway because of his bruising, physical, downhill running style. Dekalian Hall and Gyasi Hill are also back to earn some carries, and junior Jeremiah Fuller garnered praise for his explosiveness.
Malcolm Russell will likely be Mara’s top target on the outside, as Russell looks to put together a strong senior campaign. Twins Chris and Matt Hector play on both sides of the ball and will be factors as receivers. Isaiah Ambroise, Kody Harris and Jaden Ford are other names to watch.
Dilan Sherrod missed all of last year with a knee injury, but his 6-foot-4, 250-pound frame makes him an ideal candidate to be an effective tight end.
Colafrancesco called his offensive line one of the team’s strengths, with Shakir Hasan, John Werzner, Cydrick Walker and Anthony Bostany all back from last year. Gabe Wood, Kingston Lampley and Graham Russell will be able to help out as well.
Several players were forced to play on both sides of the football last year because of John Carroll’s limited roster. Thankfully for Colafrancesco, the Cavaliers will not be in nearly as dire of a predicament this fall.
The general rule is that starters on offense are penciled in as backups on defense and vice versa. Crossover players are inevitable but will not have to play as much as in 2016.
Ralph Poe and Mike Watts are back on the defensive line, with Hasan and Walker playing on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Sherrod plays defensive end as well.
Ransom Redman returns as the unit’s top linebacker, and Battle will play on the second level along with his running back duties. Chris and Matt Hector will be in the mix there as well, along with DeQuan Ball and Mark Richard.
D’Wuan Williams has started at corner each of the last two years and returns for his junior season. Malcolm Russell, Sam Reed, Hall and Hill will also serve as some of those two-way players.
Bennett Buckner is in line to handle all of the kicking duties for the Cavaliers, as he’ll take over for Lucas Stachan. Buckner will do it all: kick extra points and fi eld goals and assume the punting and kickoff duties as well.
Head coach: Logan Colafrancesco
Overall record: 0-10 (2 wins vacated)
Tenure: 2nd season
Offensive Line: Rob Crawford
Offensive Assistant: Will Mara
Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers: Owen Butts
Defensive Line: Jared Bonvillian
Defensive Backs: Tony Honeycutt