As he embarks on his 28th season, it is safe to say that football Coach Jim O’Leary (186-94-2) will field one of his youngest teams ever. Consider this: Of the 115 players the Eagles took to pre-season camp, only 15 were seniors. Compare that to 50-plus seniors five years ago.
Nevertheless, the defending Catholic Conference champion and Division 1 Super Bowl finalist Eagles (3-1, 8-5), should not be discounted. Among those 15 seniors are captains Tommy Gaudet, a dual threat quarterback, and Owen Lynch, a two-way stalwart at tightend and defensive end.
Gaudet eclipsed 1,000 yards of total offense last season as the Eagles’ second option behind record-setting running back Tyler Coppola, now at Marist. Gaudet rushed for more than 500 yards and nine touchdowns and passed for nearly 500 more while expertly directing the Eagles’ option offense.
Look for St. John’s to take a running back by committee approach with juniors Gerald Kahari and Alex Moore and sophomore Jonathan Thomas expected to share time lugging the rock. When Gaudet takes to the air, Lynch, junior Lucas Bavaro and sophomore Josh Hubbell will be his primary targets.
Of course, offensive success begins and ends with the offensive line, which must be completely rebuilt after the graduation of five starters. O’Leary and his staff were pleased with the pre-season development. Two complete units saw action in every scrimmage and the top six headed into this past Friday’s season opener loss against Dracut, which consisted of two seniors, two juniors and two sophomores.
The defense will be called on to carry the Eagles as the offense matures, led by the junior safety/linebacker and emotional leader Bavaro and the defensive end Lynch. Seniors Kyle Kaneb and Colby O’Connor and junior Tucker Mathers all return with D-Line experience. Moore and Kahari will both patrol the secondary. O’Leary is hopeful he can limit Gaudet, a two-way starter last year, strictly to offense.
In Dracut, the Eagles face an opponent they know little about. The brutal six-game non-league portion of the schedule includes road tests against Central Catholic and St. John’s of Shrewsbury and home dates against reigning Division 1 Super Bowl champion Everett and Brockton. League action kicks off Oct. 28 at Catholic Memorial.