SHP takes aim at improving defensively
The good news for Sacred Heart Prep football team? The Gators are the defending champions of the Bay Football League.
Even better news for SHP is the high numbers of players returning who can help lead them to another league title, and perhaps a North Coast Section playoff berth.
The Gators went 4-1 in league last year, finishing in a three-way tie with Salesian and King's Academy atop the BFL standings. A 1-4 nonleague record, however, kept the Gators out of the playoffs.
"We were pretty young last year," head coach Pete Lavorato said. "We had five sophomores starting. It's a matter of those sophomores and their development. It's a big jump from the sophomore to junior year."
The junior to keep an eye on is going to be quarterback Ryan Sakowski, who started behind center as a sophomore last year and looks to carry that experience with him as a team leader.
"He's stronger and more confident," Lavorato said of Sakowski. "He's just so much better after starting all year last year. But he certainly isn't the only one that's going to lead our offense."
The Gators are going to look for big things from senior running back Giordano Capovilla and senior flyback Joe Perry, both of whom will help ignite SHP's run-oriented offense. Perry also will be a key factor at cornerback and Lavorato says he is the fastest player on the team.
Those two will fill the shoes of Ty Hyland and Matt Connor, the team's leading rushers from a year ago. Both have graduated.
Lavorato is also looking for good things from fullback Gabriel Miranda and he was excited about three very good tight ends he has in Matt Brezinski, Anthony Bertolacci and Joe Young.
Other good athletes will join Perry in the secondary, and Lavorato believes the unit will be the team's strong suit.
Junior Matt Bocci will be at strong safety, junior Chris Cummings will play free safety while Justin Cowperthwaite and Alex Seagel will join Perry as cornerbacks who can all play.
"We will definitely have the best defense we've ever had since I have been here," Lavorato said with confidence. "I think we'll be pretty good."
Bertolacci and Young will help anchor a strong defensive line and J.J. Suttle and David Thomas are both returning starting linebackers who make the defensive unit look very fierce.
Now it's all about getting off to better than a 1-4 start and also dealing with the fact that the Gators may be considered the possible league favorite.
"It's hard to tell, I don't think you can call us the favorite," Lavorato said. "We are notorious slow starters, hopefully this year we can start faster and finish strong."