New and improving: St. Ed’s footballers gain experience

St. Ed’s football team wrapped up the regular season with a combined Homecoming and Senior Night celebration on Oct. 19. The Pirates fell, 16-6, to Lake Mary Prep under very pleasant conditions when the usual backbreaking heat and humidity took a time out.

The night belonged to seniors TJ Kenney, Patrick Quaile, Will Sternberg and Britt Reisman. They were honored before the game. The homecoming ceremony was featured at halftime.

This past Thursday head coach Bill Motta and his squad boarded a bus and traveled to Fort Myers for a rematch with the Canterbury School in the opening round of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference playoffs. St. Ed’s was defeated, 38-25.

It was certainly a rebuilding year for a team that was 2-8 record with a consolation SSAC postseason contest on tap this week. Rebuilding, however, took on a whole new meaning this time. The typical reference of year-to-year was replaced by week-to-week, or even day-to-day.

“We’ve got a bunch of young players,” Motta explained. “We started out the season with 16 guys on the roster. We got it up to 18 at about week five when one player returned from an injury and another from involvement in other things. Then we were able to get two eighth-graders when the middle school season ended. So we were up in numbers a little bit.

“But of the 16 we originally had, eight had never played football before. Three were international students, two from Germany and one from China. They were not familiar with American football at all. So we are still working hard on fundamentals, but it’s been really cool to watch the inexperienced players evolve. They are learning the game and trying to develop a football IQ, which they really didn’t have.

“I believe that football has a very steep learning curve. It’s not something that lends itself to just going out, running around and picking it up. You have 11 guys each with a specific job, and if one guy doesn’t do his job, the play goes bad. They have got to learn and understand that.

“I don’t think I could honestly look at any play this season where we had all 11 guys do everything perfectly. That’s the actual recipe for football success. That’s where we are at right now – missing mental assignments, or an alignment, simple stuff. We are still making errors we shouldn’t be making, or not tackling the way we should be tackling.”

Under those circumstances, a victory or two might seem miraculous. More to the point, Motta detected discernible progress in many areas throughout the season.

“We had some big plays, a nice double pass in the preseason classic, a nice screen pass for about 60 yards, a blocked field goal for a touchdown. I think we actually led the conference in blocked kicks. So we’ve had moments of greatness for sure.

“But our real highlights are that these guys go into every game usually outnumbered. Most of our opponents not only have more players, but they have stronger guys with more experience. But our guys step into the ring every week, without fear.

“In the last few weeks improvement has become obvious. Everything is progressing just the way you would expect from a young, inexperienced team. On a team with up to 40 players and levels of experience, younger guys can gain valuable experience in back-up roles. Our guys don’t have that opportunity. They are pretty much thrown right into the fire. It’s baptism by fire, basically.”

St. Ed’s pulled off a big upset the week before Homecoming when QB Michael Mangieri tossed three TD passes to stun All Saints Academy, 27-24.

A week later the visiting Griffins from Lake Mary held the ball for most of the first quarter and grabbed an early advantage with a 28-yard field goal. A penalty and short kickoff gave the Pirates excellent field position, and within short order Mangieri hit a wide-open Ty Redmon for a 35-yard touchdown and a 6-3 lead.

Unfortunately, that was about all the offense could muster. Lake Mary was ahead 9-6 by halftime and held the ball for the first eight minutes of the third period before a TD made it 16-6. The Pirates had a modest drive in the final period, but eventually gave up the ball on downs with five minutes left. Lake Mary ran out the clock from there.

The defense did its best to keep the Pirates close, but that group simply could not get off the field. The offense had good field position a few times, but turned it into points just once. The running game never got untracked, thwarting any chances of a second-half comeback.

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