COACH — JOE DELLA VECCHIA (22nd year, 149-90)
CONFERENCE — FCIAC East
PLAYOFF CLASS — L (390 boys enrollment + success modifier)
HOME — Dalling Field, St. Joseph HS, Trumbull
2018 RECORD — 12-1 (defeated Berlin to win Class M championship)
2019 OPENER — Sept. 13 at McMahon, 7 p.m.
TEAM WEBSITES — StJoesHogsFootball.com | TWITTER — @STJHogs
David Summers QB (Syracuse), Jesse Bike WR, Robert Mihaly OL, Jesse Lawson LB, Darren Warren DB, Ace Luzietti DB, Phil Pasmeg WR, Luke Kirby PK
“Jack Wallace is the guy,” St. Joseph football coach Joe Della Vecchia said when asked to answer the Hogs’ biggest question entering the season: Who will replace Syracuse-bound David Summers at quarterback?
A 5-10, 165-pound junior, Wallace was a terminator for the Hogs defense last year when he made 47 often-crushing tackles and intercepted two passes.
Now, he’s tasked with taking command of an offense that averaged more than 450 yards of offense and scored
“The number one thing is that he wants to be the quarterback,” Della Vecchia said. “He is a competitor who has proven he can play at the highest level.”
Though new, Wallace can at least count on a talented corps of receivers, especially Will Diamantis and Brady Hutchinson. Diamantis had 44 receptions for 1,015 yards and 15 touchdowns. Hutchinson caught 27 balls for 366 yards and six touchdowns.
“Will understands our offense and runs great routes,” Della Vecchia said. “He has strong hands to go with great speed. He is a physical kid and a three-year starter. Brady was going to start, but he missed the first part of the season with an injury. He was dynamic when he returned.”
Max daSilva and Austin Rose will also be called upon to help the Hogs shore up their receiving corps now that Jesse Bike (10 TDs) and Phil Pasmeg have graduated.
Meanwhile, as the passing game figures itself out, St. Joseph does return its reliable rushing attack, spearheaded by senior All-State running back Jaden Shirden, whom Della Vecchia says has added plenty of muscle to his 190-pound frame.
“A key for Jaden has been his strength and he is even stronger,” Della Vecchia said of Shirden, who ran for 1,377 yards (7.4 per carry) and 26 touchdowns last season. He rushed for 100-plus yards in nine games and caught 23 passes good for 237 yards and four scores.
Della Vecchia is pleased with the blocking skills of his offensive line, which graduated All-Stater Robert Mihaly, but returns Nick DiIorio and Chris Kiley. It will be shored up by Ken Martin, Dennis Elrod and Brian Robertson.
Austin Jose takes over for All-Stater Luke Kirby as the primary placekicker. As a specialist last year, Jose placed 38 of his kickoffs into the end zone as a junior.
Defensively, St. Joseph should be strong again after allowing a mere 86 points last season.
The Hogs return their front three starters with Mike Morrissey (66 tackles, nine sacks), first-team New Haven Register All-Stater Jermaine Williams (35 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks) and Caden Porter (29 tackles, 4 sacks).
So, too, return leading tackler Alex Pagliarini (89 tackles, 8 1/2 sacks) and Cole daSilva (43 tackles, six sacks, three interceptions) to lead the linebacking corps alongside Dennis Rotunno.
The secondary lost Ace Luzietti and Darren Warren, but returns Davee Silas at safety and Justin Williams at corner. There will be a host of others to fill in the other spots in the defensive backfield, including Tyler Sisko, Noah Gage, Max Warren and Jack Coughlin and, of course, the quarterback.
“Jack Wallace is too good not to consider playing back there,” Della Vecchia said.
Though there’s work to be done, St. Joseph heads into the season confident it will continue its run of success. The Hogs have won six of their 14 state championships over the last 10 years.
“We have a lot of guys returning and we are hoping to pick up right from last season,” Della Vecchia said. “We have a good core group, and we’ll bring the others along as fast as we can. We have a lot of leaders in our group of seniors and the younger kids are beginning to figure it out.
“We don’t have as much depth as we’ve had the last two years. We’ve gone with a two platoon system as much as possible, but in this situation, I think we’re going to ask some offensive guys to also play defense.”
Because it won consecutive state titles, St. Joseph has been bumped up in playoff class for the second-consecutive year due to the CIAC’s tournament success modifier for schools of choice.
Class M by enrollment, St. Joseph and Berlin were moved up to Class L and will now compete with the likes of Hand and New Canaan for a state championship.
In addition to their FCIAC East opponents, which includes a Week 4 date with New Canaan, the Hogs will face both Fairfield Prep and Notre Dame-West Haven for the third time in six years.
“We have a really difficult schedule,” Della Vecchia said. “If all goes well, we hope to be in the mix when the playoffs come around.”
Sept. 13 — at McMahon,**7 p.m.
Sept. 21 — NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN, 1 p.m.
Sept. 27 — at Wilton,** 7 p.m.
Oct. 4— at New Canaan,** 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 — at Fairfield Prep, 6 p.m.
Oct. 26 — RIDGEFIELD,** 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 2 — FAIRFIELD WARDE,** 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 16 — STAPLES,** 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 22 — at Stamford,** 7 p.m.
Nov. 28 — TRUMBULL,* 10:30 a.m.