Head Coach: Rich Robbins
2018 record and finish: 5-5, fell in MMAA A Championship game
Number of returning starters: 6 Offense/5 Defense
Key Returnees: Donovan Cornelius, Jake Troup, C.J. Ozolins, Nigel Dabney
Key Losses: Joe Jamison, James Desiderio, JT Bowland, Joel Nicholas
Canisius is known for reloading and not rebuilding. That concept continues in 2019. Despite the departure of standout QB Christian Veilleux, the Crusaders will compete for another MMAA championship. There is a healthy quarterback competition going on between sophomore Tyler Baker, junior Gabe Fisher and recent transfer Austin Williams (Section V). Outside of the QB battle, the Crusaders feature some really exciting playmakers in Antwain Gandy-Benavides Jr., Max Dowling and Elijah Haqq but the strength of this team continues to be the guys up front. Donovan Cornelius, a 2019 Trench Trophy contender, will lead that group. Keep your eyes on CJ Ozolins, Nigel Dabney, Joe Dixon and Jake Troup, all four figure to have productive seasons.
“It seems like every few years we forget how we got where we got and last year’s group kind of didn’t do everything that needed to be done in order to be where we need to be and that’s being a championship program. It served as great motivation for this next group. These young guys have really been working hard this offseason to make sure we get back on top. We return some linemen, that will be a strength of our team this year. We’re very big and very deep up front and that’s always great. It seems like every year we have a competition, especially at that position (quarterback). Our expectations for the season are high, they’re always high here at Canisius based on what we’ve done over the past decade. It’s kind of state championship or bust for us.”
“Last year was very up and down. We had some tough games. But this year we have a lot of guys coming back that had a little bit of experience last year and are really willing to work. It’s a different team this year. At Canisius, we’re all about competition. We have a lot of guys on this team that can do really good things for us. The expectations are a championship. It’s Canisius, we hold ourselves to a high standard. If we don’t get a championship ring it’s a bad year for us.”
St. Francis Red Raiders
Head Coach: Jerry Smith
2018 record and finish: 5-7, won MMAA Class A championship – lost to Archbishop Stepinac in Catholic State Final
Number of returning starters: 8 Offense/5 Defense
Key Returnees: Jake Ritts, Xzvaier Janczylik, Eric Schon, Antonio Corsi, Austin Hill, Noah Kunzman, Dache’ Jones, Marc Arrizza, Matt Jaworski, Jack Lauer
Key Losses: Dominic Thomas, Dawson Tyger, Grayson Myers, Nolan Thomas
The Red Raiders are coming together a lot sooner than in years past where cohesiveness took time to develop. St. Francis will be led by QB Jake Ritts (2021), who broke the WNY single season passing record a year ago. Ritts will have one of his favorite targets back in Antonio Corsi (TE) and Xzavier Janczylik (RB). Holy Cross bound Eric Schon will anchor the offensive line and Thomas Betpitch (WR) has been working out with Ritts during the offseason to improve chemistry. Frannies will be thin on the line in terms of depth but have what it takes to repeat as MMAA champions.
St. Joseph’s Marauders
Head Coach: Derek Landri
2018 record and finish: 5-5, fell in MMAA A semifinals
Number of returning starters: 5 Offense/4 Defense
Key Returnees: Micah Brown, Sam Klein, Jason Walker, Vinny Lomeo, Sam Murphy, Jimmy Scott, David Morgan Jr.
Key Losses: Tyler Doty, Cole Gambino, Will McDonald
There is a new sheriff in town and it’s QB Callum Wither, who transferred in from Canada this summer. Not much is known about Wither but it is believed that he has upwards of three D-1 offers. That will give Micah Brown an opportunity to do what he does best, catch passes. Brown is a dynamic weapon and with help from returners such as Jimmy Scott and David Morgan, the Marauders figure to have a much-improved offense. Scott had a tremendous freshman season and should garner some Connolly Cup attention.
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