Tonawanda News — Offensive lines usually aren’t the focal point of a football team heading into a season.
But according to Cardinal O’Hara head coach Angelo Sciandra, the Hawks’ fortunes will live and die with their front five.
“I think we’re going to be an improved football team this year, for sure,” Sciandra said. “Our line is one of the biggest reasons why I’m more optimistic going into this season than I was last year. Those guys have another year of experience, they’re a good group of kids and the continuity of working together the last couple of years also helps too.”
The Hawks’ offensive line is composed of five juniors – tackles Tyler Jansen and Kris Croom, guards Mike Spagna and Gino Lattuca, and center Darnell Hamilton. All of them except for Lattuca (who recently switched from tight end to guard) started for the Hawks last season and have seen their development grow by leaps and bounds this offseason.
“They’ve been very diligent in working in the weight room this summer. They’ve gotten stronger and they understand our blocking schemes a lot better,” Scianda said. “It’s not so much now where they just go and seal off someone just because they’ve been told to block that person. They really understand the concepts of our plays now, and they understand the big picture better.”
O’Hara also faces the challenge of replacing Anthony DiFrancesco, their quarterback from the three previous seasons. The recent graduate was a leader for the team and was a threat in both the passing game and running game.
“Anthony was always going to be tough to replace,” Sciandra said. “He was a tough, tough kid and was a heck of an athlete. I don’t know if I’ve ever had anyone like him.”
Fortunately for O’Hara, their new starter under center has already gained experience running their offense. Donel Cathcart, a junior, stepped into the lineup last season when DiFrancesco injured his knee and performed admirably.
“Last year, when Anthony blew his knee out, we went with Donel for the rest of the year and he looked pretty good under center,” Sciandra said. “He looks a lot more polished this year and he’s running our offense better. He’s still a little inconsistent with his throwing, but when he throws well, he really throws it well. He just has to become more consistent, and I think he’s going to have a good season starting for us.”
Cathcart needs to have a good season if O’Hara plans to turn around its fortunes in 2013. The Hawks, a small school that won just two games last season while playing against the likes of St. Joe’s, Canisius and St. Francis, will face the same gauntlet of large schools again this season.
Sciandra, however, believes his team won’t be intimidated by the size of the schools they will play against.
“We have 120 boys in our school and all the schools we play, like St. Joe’s and Canisius have 700-800 boys. It’s definitely a challenge,” Sciandra said. “We tell the kids all the time, they might have more boys in their school, but they can only put 11 kids out on the field at a time. You put your 11 against our 11, and let’s get it on.”2013 Hawks Last season record: 2-8 Head coach: Angelo Sciandra, 13th season KEY PLAYERS: Donel Cathcart, Jr. QB/CB, Tyler Jansen, Jr. OT/DT, Kris Croom, Jr. OT/DE, Mike Spagna, Jr. OG/DT, Gino Latucca, Jr. OG/LB, Darnell Hamilton, Jr. C/DT. KEY LOSSES: Anthony DiFrancesco, QB/LB, Keith Carter, OT/LB, Khari Wright, RB/LB.