The St. Mary’s High School football team put in a lot of work in the offseason – but there’s one thing the Lancers didn’t have to work on: a coaching search.
For the first time in four years, St. Mary’s will not be working with a coach in his first year with the program. In his second year on the Lancers’ sideline, Chris Dickson has his entire coaching staff back and he’s looking towards building a winner at St. Mary’s.
“Like I told the kids: I’m back,” said Dickson, who previously coached Lancaster to the Class AA playoffs in 2013-15. “You’ve got some stability with the coaching staff – all the coaches came back. We have a great staff and we’re looking forward to seeing these kids compete.”
Dickson replaced Chris Glenn, who left after one season to coach at Williamsville East. Glenn replaced current Hutch Tech assistant coach Nick Todaro, who coached the Lancers in 2014. He replaced Dave Hersey, who led the program from 2010-13.
Not only did St. Mary’s have a new coach last season, the Lancers also had a lot of new players. The 30-man roster included 12 freshmen. All the turnover led to some growing pains and a 1-9 season against some tough competition.
“We had some great kids that hung in there last season,” Dickson said. “The schedule was stacked; I didn’t have any control over that, the previous coach made it. When you face Hutch-Tech, a Double-A school right off the gate and we’re really a Class D (size) school, that’s pretty tough.”
“I’m not afraid to go play anybody,” he added. “I do understand that with numbers, we’ve got to keep it within reason. I can’t go face a team with a roster of 60 when we only have a roster of 30. That doesn’t make much sense. But we’re looking forward to the opportunity to see what we can do this year.”
The Lancers have plenty of talent on board as they look to rebound in 2017 against a more manageable schedule. Up front, St. Mary’s will feature junior Garrett Kuhn, who missed nine games last season after suffering a broken leg.
“He’s battling back from that and he has a great outlook on things,” Dickson said. “I think he’s going to be a huge factor.”
Another man looking for bigger things this season is center Thomas Moss, who struggled with snaps at times last season. Dickson said the sophomore “has gotten a lot better and the confidence has come through. I’m looking forward to seeing him compete for us.”
The running game will be led by the likes of senior Derek Johnson and sophomore CJ Ozolins. Senior Ja’Shawn Collins will step in at quarterback after playing wide receiver last year.
Ozolins was a standout at defensive end last season. Johnson and Collins are also expected to be factors on the defense in 2017.
“It’s a good young group of kids that are out and they’re grasping what we’re putting in,” Dickson said. “Enthusiasm is good and we’re moving forward.”