Forgive the Xaverian Hawks if they have a chip on their shoulders this season.
They're (how do you say in a politically correct manner?) a little ticked off about the way last season went. It was a losing season (4-7), and, as a result, the Hawks again fell short of a Catholic Conference championship, having last won it in the magical 2009 undefeated season.
Expectations never waver at the Hawk Bowl, and there's no exception for 2013. But with returning Conference champion and statewide preseason No. 1 St. John's Prep holding the gate and a stacked gauntlet of opponents in the newly formed Division 1 South sectional, Xaverian's path to postseason glory is wrought with peril.
“I think every year we have high expectations for ourselves,” junior defensive end and tight end Joe Gaziano said. “And, obviously, last year was a disappointment. But I feel this year we’re really motivated to work hard and we expect even more of ourselves this year, knowing what it takes to win and how hard it is to win.”
While the wins may have come up short in the fall, for Gaziano and several of his teammates who were members of the Hawks lacrosse team’s Division 1 state championship in June -- the program's first -- they might have found a springboard into football season. It’s certainly not unprecedented in recent MIAA history that a program wins championships in both lacrosse and football in a calendar year, with Massachusetts lacrosse scions Duxbury pulling the feat most recently in both 2011 and 2012. On both those Dragons squads, a number of players shared responsibilities in both the spring and fall.
Xaverian fits a similar mold this year, with seniors Shayne Kaminski and D.J. Sperzel (Providence College lacrosse recruit) and Gaziano starring in both seasons.
Yet, Kaminski wasn’t about to buy into the idea that one success necessarily begets another.
“It’s a different game. But we’re really trying to push the defense this year and I think we can be good.”
He continued, “Our goal for right now is just to beat Everett [in Week 1]. That’s as far as we’re looking right now.”
XAVERIAN AT A GLANCE
Coach: Charlie Stevenson (20th season, 162-59-1)
Last year: 4-7
Key returnees: Shayne Kaminski, Sr. RB/LB, 5-11, 198 lbs.; Joe Gaziano, Jr. DE/TE, 6-3, 230 lbs.; D.J. Sperzel, Sr. WR/S, 6-2, 190 lbs.; A.J. King, Sr. WR/S, 5-10, 180 lbs.; Nick Colantuoni, Sr. TE/DE, 6-3, 215 lbs.; Noah Sorrento, Jr. RB/LB, 5-9, 180 lbs.
Strengths: Depth at wide receiver, experienced pass rush.
Weaknesses: Depth at offensive line, experience on interior defensive line.
Outlook: The word around Clapboardtree Street is that defense has been the imperative this preseason. And it’s not a stretch to hint that the Hawks might have one of the best units in the state this season. Gaziano and Nick Colantuoni present a serious pass rush threat from the ends, while Kaminski, Noah Sorrento and Kenny Kerns will feature at the linebacker spots. Of course, the Hawks have to find a replacement for the departed Mo Hurst, now a freshman at Michigan. Well, you can’t really replace a player like that can you? “We’ll have a cast of hundreds,” head coach Charlie Stevenson said, alluding to the pool of players his staff is considering to fill the defensive tackle positions. On offense, there’s a quarterback battle that continues with senior Peter White and junior Jake Farrell vying for the job. Xaverian has depth at running back with Kaminski and Sorrento providing able options. But the Hawks are auditioning a several new starters along the offensive line. The early returns have been positive. “Our offensive line has been great so far,” Gaziano said. “We have a lot of new guys stepping up on the line with Joe Parsons, Ryan Mellen and Jeff Perez. I expect them to do a great job up front and help the run game and be a big, physical presence.”