Cardinal O’Hara’s success isn’t measured the same way as it might be at bigger Catholic schools.
The Hawks had a record of 1-9, (1-4 Monsignor Martin) in 2016. O’Hara was hurt by injuries to serval top players throughout the year.
But overall head coach Shaquille Dudley was happy with how the season went.
“I thought it was a great season,” Dudley said. “We lost some good senior leadership to injury in the beginning of the year but we were able to develop throughout the season. People that saw us play at the end of season, saw that we played hard for four quarters. That’s all that I can ask these guys to do.”
O’Hara certainly showed toughness in their final game of the season. The Hawks held the Matt Myers led Bishop Timon offense to 12 points in the Monsignor Martin quarterfinals. Earlier that month, they lost a 44-14 decision to the Tigers.
For senior Nasir Benton, being tough, especially mentally was the biggest lesson he took from 2016.
“We learned you have to be mentally tough,” Benton said. “No matter what the situation you have to have your teammates’ back.”
The Hawks lose strong athletes in William Willis and Clifford Zeigler to graduation.
Coming back for O’Hara are seniors Michon Dudley, Benton, and junior Stephen Boyd. The three are expected to be leaders for the Hawks.
Dudley and Boyd are both returning All-Catholic linemen. Dudley will also be key at tight end.
According to coach Dudley, Boyd, who is 6’ 3” and 300 pounds, can make it to the next level.
“Boyd is D-I caliber player,” Dudley said. “No one can stop him one-on-one.”
Benton played QB for most of last season, but his true fit is at wide receiver.
This year the Hawks are looking for junior CJ Masters to step into the starting QB spot and allow Benton to be a wide out.
Dudley saw flashes late in the season of what the Hawks offense could look like with Masters as his quarterback.
In the game against Steubenville, Masters was put at QB in the second half and threw eight straight passes to Benton, who finished with 69 receiving yards that game.
“Coming in as a freshman he had good footwork, very intelligent and threw a nice ball but he was a little under developed,” Dudley said of Masters. “We’ve been waiting for him to grow into his body.”
The defense will be led by junior linebackers Remir Velasquez and Jamall Lewis, Jr. Velasquez led the team in tackles with 36 last season.
Lewis and classmate Brandon Broadnax will be the workhorses in the backfield.
All-Catholic basketball player Justin Hemphill is expected to be a deep threat and strong passer rusher on the gridiron this year.
In 2017, Dudley believes his team will turn some heads in Monsignor Martin.
“We only graduated four guys, so we have a very veteran group,” Dudley said. “We’re looking to really make a splash this year.”