Xavier High School proved to be the wrecking ball in Connecticut high school football last season, when the Falcons went 13-0 en route to the Class LL championship.
Xavier may have an even better team this season.
The Connecticut Sportswriters Alliance picked the Falcons as the state's No. 1 team in its preseason poll. Xavier edged Masuk by one point.
“You have to worry about complacency,” Xavier coach Sean Marinan said. “We haven't played a game yet. Pretty much everything they say at this point in the season is based on last year.”
It's based on returning talent as well, and the Falcons have plenty of it. On offense Xavier has two Division I quarterbacks in junior Tim Boyle and senior Pat D'Amato. Boyle has scholarship offers from Boston College and Syracuse, and D'Amato recently committed to Stony Brook.
The QBs split time last season. D'Amato will play wide receiver when Boyle is the team's quarterback.
“Tim's got a very strong arm and he's 6-4,” Marinan said. “He chose not to do too much this summer. If he had I'm sure he'd have more offers. He's what everybody's looking for in a quarterback.
“Pat's a faster kid, and a little more elusive. Basically we have two No. 1 quarterbacks.”
The offense also returns senior running back Mike Mastroianni, who rushed for 1,889 yards last season. In addition, wide receiver Ryan Murphy is drawing interest from several FBS schools.
The defense must replace linebacker Graham Stewart, who was the state's Gatorade Player of the Year and is now playing for the University of Florida, but returns seven starters. Linebacker Jovan Santos is among the returnees. Santos has committed to the University of Massachusetts.
The Falcons also have three linemen – Ryan Jacobucci, Austin Wezenski and Sean Marinan Jr. (coach's son) – who are being recruited by FBS programs.
“I think our defense will be strong again,” Marinan said. “I don't know if it will be as strong as it was the year before. Replacing Graham Stewart is virtually impossible. We do have some holes to fill and he's obviously one of them.”
Xavier, which beat Trumbull to win last year's LL title, will open its season Friday against Notre Dame-West Haven.
“I thought we would have a good team last year and maybe have a state championship year the year after [this season},” Marinan said. “Now I look back and see what we have to replace and wonder why I thought that way, but hopefully I was right.”
CALL TO THE HALL
Coaches Joseph Erardi, Jr., Paula Fitzgerald, Burt Leventhal, Thomas Malin, Katharine Palmer, William Parkinson, Jody Rajcula, Stephen Stoklosa and former Hartford Courant sportswriter Woody Anderson will be inducted into the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in November. The dinner will be Nov. 17 at the Aqua Turf in Southington.
Erardi was Manchester's girls soccer coach from 1980-91. His teams won two state championships.
Fitzgerald has coached tennis at Westbrook since 1989, and also served as the school's softball coach. Her boys and girls teams have a combined record of 304-132.
Leventhal coached baseball at Cheshire for 33 years. His teams won 380 games, including three state championships.
Malin has coached boys soccer and boys golf at East Catholic-Manchester since 1974. His teams have won eight state championships: six in golf and two in soccer.
Palmer has coached the Guilford field hockey team to 303 victories since becoming the program's head coach in 1982. She has also guided the Daniel Hand-Madison tennis team to 183 wins since becoming head coach in 2001.
Parkinson has coached track at Notre Dame-West Haven since 1979, and cross country at the school since 1988. His teams have won five track championships, including one State Open.
Rajcula has been girls basketball coach at Brookfield for three seasons, but had a career record of 383-168 as the women's basketball coach at Western Connecticut State University.
Stoklosa was the track coach at South Windsor from 1975 to 2000, and South Windsor's cross country coach from 1978 to 2006. His cross country teams won 363 meets and two state championships, and his track teams won 225 meets.
Anderson received the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Merit Award for many years of distinguished service to high school sports in 2003.
GUILFORD'S CIVITELLO STEPS DOWN
Pete Civitello has resigned after eight seasons as Guilford's baseball coach.
Civitello guided Guilford to the Southern Connecticut Conference Hammonasset Division title in 2007 and 2008. The Indians also won the SCC conference and Class L state title in 2007.
Civitello is also the varsity boys basketball coach at North Haven.
Roger Brown has covered high school sports in New England since 1992. He currently covers high school and college football in the Northeast for ESPN/Scouts Inc.