Champion Cascia Hall Commandos Season Preview
TOP DEFENDER: Last year’s leading tackler, senior Andrew Choquette, has the unique instinct of always being around the ball.
Courtesy Cascia Hall
The defending 2A state champions move up to Class 3A for 2008, but the mission remains the same, winning another state championship. The tradition rich Cascia Hall football program has been to the state playoffs for 21 consecutive season, won three state titles in 1989, 1999 and 2007, and were finalists in 1990, 2001, and 2005. The Commandos posted a perfect 15-0 record last season clinching the state title with a 20-13 victory over previously unbeaten Heritage Hall.
The team returns five starters on offense and seven starters on defense. Head Coach Joe Medina (158-54-2, 17 seasons overall) returns for his tenth season at Cascia Hall and has posted a 101-15 record since returning to his alma mater in 1999. The Commando coaching staff includes Tom Ososkie (WR/OLB), Thomas Perrault (OL/DL), Shawn Gammill (RB/ILB), Bryan Howard (TE/DB), Joe Estep (freshman), Logan Brosky (freshman), and Cameron Brosky (freshman).
Cascia Hall prides itself on its “Blue Swarm” defense, which employs an aggressive 3-4 scheme. Leading the way is senior defensive lineman Danny Husband (6-3, 215 lbs). Husband, an All-State candidate, logged 86 tackles and 13 sacks. Super-quick junior Daniel Zabienski (6-1, 200 lbs) is a constant force in opposing team’s backfields. Senior Conner Sinko (6-5, 240 lbs) and junior Alex Willson (6-0, 220 lbs) will round out the starting defensive line. Seniors Will McBride, Marcus Whelan, and Michael Michalopulus will add needed depth. Freshman Hunter Hart has also shown a tremendous amount of progress through spring practice and TU football camp.
The linebacker corps has lost key starters due to graduation. The Commandos return last year’s sack leader, senior Ransom LaLonde (6-3, 215 lbs,) at the outside linebacker spot. LaLonde, one of the top baseball prospects in the state, is a relentless pass rusher (17 sacks) with the ability to change the course of a game from the defensive side of the ball. Senior Byron Dale (6-0, 190 lbs) is expected to start opposite of LaLonde. Junior Stephen Rouse will also log playing minutes on the outside. Inside is last year’s leading tackler (120 tackles) senior Andrew Choquette (6-0, 190 lbs). Choquette has the unique instinct of always being around the ball.
Super-freshman Conner Sherwood (6-3, 200 lbs) is expected to start at inside linebacker and make an immediate impact. Junior Kyle Cowan (6-2, 220 lbs), will compete for the starting inside linebacker spot. Senior Tim Spoerl and Hunter Siex will bolster the depth at the linebacker position.
The Commandos have the most depth, experience, and skill in the defensive backfield. In the defensive backfield is senior standout Price Pinkerton (6-1, 180 lbs). Pinkerton had 7 interceptions in 2007, returning two for touchdowns. Senior Fritz Blue (5-10, 175 lbs.) gives Cascia another returning starter at corner. Senior Pete Testa (6-3, 180 lbs.) returns for his second year as a starter at free safety.
Senior Sam Clancy was a part-time starter at strong safety but looks to relinquish that spot so he can concentrate on his quarterbacking duties. Physical junior Cale Kirtley (6-0, 180 lbs.) looks to inherit the spot. Junior Garrett Waller (6-0, 165 lbs.) provides a capable back up at corner and sophomore Paul Thetford will do the same at safety. On offense, Pinkerton is according to Medina, “a human highlight reel” capable of scoring every time he touches the ball. Pete Testa is a solid second receiver with junior AZ Moyer providing additional depth. Don’t be surprised to see freshman receiver Luke Moellers earn playing time as the season moves toward the playoffs. Senior Ransom LaLonde (6-3, 215 lbs.) appears to be the heir apparent at the tailback spot. LaLonde rushed for over 700 yards last season. Junior Cet Caldwell (5-8, 180 lbs) is one of the quickest players in recent years at Cascia. On special teams the Commandos are just as strong as their offense and defense. Pete Testa returns as the starting kicker and punter. He averaged over 39 yards on his punts and 85% of his kickoffs went into the end zone. Conner Sinko returns as the team’s long snapper and has impressed several college coaches with his snapping ability. Price Pinkerton is one of the most dangerous return men in the state. He returned two punts for touchdowns in 2007.
Junior Daniel Zabienski is capable of playing both tailback and fullback. The fullback position will battle between freshman Conner Sherwood (6-3, 200 lbs) and junior Kyle Cowan (6-2, 220 lbs).
Overall, the Commandos have enough talent and experience at key positions to be a title contender in Class 3A. The defense should again be rock-solid and tough for opponents to score upon. The offense has more than enough talented players to light up scoreboards across the state. The special teams are as solid as they have ever been during Medina’s tenure. The step up in competition should not be a problem as the Commandos were in the 3A finals as recently as 2005. Look for the Cascia to have its best chance in the school’s history to repeat as state champions.