Unfortunately, I was assigned a story last minute and won’t be able to attend camps at Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley and Irvington as planned. Hopefully, I can hit some of them tomorrow when I’m also scheduled to stop by Hackley.
For now, here’s my story from Wednesday’s paper on the large incoming freshman class at Kennedy and how the team is gearing up to play in the CHSFL:
SOMERS — In the wake of its decision to leave Section 1 for the CHSAA, Kennedy administrators and coaches pointed to increasing enrollment as an impetus behind the move. Detractors raised an eyebrow at the suggestion, but this week’s opening of football practice has provided a snapshot that supports the school’s theory.
The Gaels returned just 17 players from last season, but have added 35 or more incoming freshmen to their JV and varsity football programs.
The numbers have generated optimism on a team that expects to face obstacles as it moves into a new league.
The coaching staff helped host three football open houses this spring, highlighting Kennedy’s nine-game regular season schedule (as opposed to seven in Section 1) and what it believes is the CHSFL’s stiffer competition.
“We’ve been busy,” said Kennedy’s second-year coach Rino Sangro (pictured right), who had just 37 players total on JV and varsity last season. “We’ve been trying to get the word out about the Catholic league and how it’s going to positively affect Kennedy as far as enrollment and Kennedy Catholic becoming better at sports and better at football, which is what we all want.”
Excitement abounds at most camps in August, of course, but the Gaels must meet new challenges, too. They won just one game in Class B last season. And they now must travel to Staten Island and Brooklyn for road games as they adjust to new opponents.
“It excites me because we’re going to play better competition and that makes me want to work harder in the weight room and on the field,” sophomore fullback/linebacker Chris Kovocic said. “It’s a little different because some of the schools we played, I knew the kids. But we just have to prepare a little more, study film, work hard in the weight room, running, training and learning the plays.”
Despite those transitions ahead of it, Kennedy has at least one completed. Last season, the school hired Sangro in June to replace Rob Schwartz, and the move left the new staff short on time. But the coaches have hosted 38 offseason workouts since they started last November.
Sangro, a former lineman at Western Illinois who coaches the team’s defense, also added former Hen Hud coach Tony Sampogna to coach the offense.
For that reason and more, Sangro considers this season “like year 1A” for his program. Players agreed.
“I think it’s really going to help us,” said senior kicker Kevin Daly, a Division I prospect who kicked at Rutgers and Villanova camps this summer. “We’ve averaged about 20 guys training in the offseason. We’ve all gotten stronger and faster training this year. We’re going to be better this year.”