For the 14 seniors on the 2013 Immaculate Heart Central football roster, this is the season theyve been waiting for since joining the varsity.
The Cavaliers have been very competitive in the Class C North division, winning their share of games and making the Section 3 Class C playoffs on an annual basis. But theyve never been able to take that next step. The ultimate goal of advancing to the Carrier Dome for the sectional finals has eluded coach Paul Alteris club.
The reason for such optimism this year is the experience and depth on both sides of the ball. On paper, with starters returning at almost every vital position, Alteris team is certainly more than capable of making a run for not only division honors, but a sectional as well.
And the seniors are aware that their time has come to make those things happen.
Our goal since ninth grade was to get to the Dome and play for a title, said senior lineman Cody St. Onge. Weve stuck together through the good times, and the bad, and now we realize this is our last shot. So were going to put forth every effort to accomplish what we know we can do if we play together.
Senior tight end/defensive end Miles Sexton said, The seniors have really bonded together over the years. Were all playing for each other, and that makes what we can accomplish more special.
Alteri said all of the experience is nice.
It means you dont have to teach quite as much because the seniors know our system and what it takes to succeed at this level, he said. But at the same time, you dont win games on paper. Weve got to go out and establish ourselves from the first play of the season to the last.
Alteri also has nine juniors and eight sophomores on an expanded 31-man roster, which means he will have more depth than in the past few season.
On offense, Alteri possesses a plethora of weapons to choose from, including several talented running backs and probably the best set of receivers in the north country.
In seniors Michael Marra, Austyn Frechette, Hayden Baker and Spencer Sharlow, the Cavaliers should be able to run consistently well.
We havent had a 1,000-yard runner since Nunzio Doldo, said Alteri, of the the Cavaliers top running back in 2006. All of our guys this year have that potential, but we want to share the carries and give them as much rest as we can, too.
Times All-North wideout Nick Koelmel, who caught 40 passes for 620 yards a year ago, figures to have another outstanding season. Sexton (18-320) is an imposing target, while Baker can also catch and run with the ball.
The wild card this year is senior Jude Whalen, a standout soccer player donning a football uniform for the first time. He gives Alteri speed, versatility and leadership at a number of skill positions and defensive back.
Jude is certainly a nice edition because hes a tremendous athlete, Alteri said. Hopefully, we can utilize him all over the field.
The key for IHC will be the development of junior quarterback Cole Carpenter. He saw only limited duty behind Matt Moran last year, but has the physical abilities (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) to succeed.
Coles been looking good so far, Sexton said. Weve got a new playbook this year, so hes had to learn a lot. But we all have confidence in him.
St. Onge and junior Grant Chamberlain are the leaders on an undersized line.
Defensively, nine starters are back from a team that allowed just 124 points a year ago. Defensive ends Sexton and Koelmel, linebackers Frechette and Sharlow and defensive backs Marra and Baker will again form one of the best units around.
But Alteri is concerned that low numbers may force IHC to abandon its modified program.
Our numbers are not good at the lower levels, he said. Hopefully, we can hang on (to the modified program) and sustain our varsity program down the line.
Immaculate Heart Cavaliers
2012 record: 5-3, 3-2 Class C North.
Coach: Paul Alteri (8th year, 42-20).
Players to watch: Nick Koelmel (Sr., WR/DB, 40-629, 3 TD); Haden Baker (Sr., RB/DB); Austyn Frechette (Sr., RB/LB, 42-245); Miles Sexton (Sr., TE/DE, 18-320, 3 TD); Cole Carpenter (Jr., QB); Michael Marra (Sr., RB/DB, 67-358, 7 TD); Spencer Sharlow (Sr., RB/LB, 62-378, 9 TD); Cody St. Onge (Sr., OL/DE); Jude Whalen (Sr., WR/DB).