Despite injuries, setbacks, and challenging schedules, coaches for all six diocesan high schools football teams are hopeful for improved records and births in the playoffs.
As the mid-season mark approaches, the combined record for the six schools—Ursuline High School (Youngstown), Cardinal Mooney High School (Youngstown), John F. Kennedy High School (Warren), Canton Central Catholic, Saint John School (Ashtabula) and St. Thomas Aquinas (Louisville)—stands at 11-13. Yet all the coaches—including two first-year head coaches—contend that their respective teams are improving each week.
Below is the mid-season gridiron report for Saint John School. You can find detailed reports on the other schools here: Ursuline High School, Cardinal Mooney High School, John F. Kennedy High School, Canton Central Catholic and St. Thomas Aquinas High School.
Saint John School football team strives for development as well as victories
As the Saint John School football team continues into their season, Coach Bob Dlwgosh, head coach since 2020, talks about developing and competing as much as winning.
“We might have the smallest enrollment of any of the schools that field teams, even in Division VII,” the smallest of the divisions as set by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA).
Last year, the St. John Heralds earned a victory over Sebring and a win by forfeit against Akron Springfield. With two wins this year already, they have matched last year’s wins total and improved on the previous season’s 0-10 record. But Coach Dlwgosh’s focus remains on the development of his players.
“A lot of the guys last year were new to the game,” Dlwgosh noted, and the coaching staff worked to help the players rise to the tasks before them.
In the months following the 2022 football season, the coach and players engaged in intense training for the 2023 season, Dlwgosh noted. “All in all, we were happy with the way they developed and performed. They are bigger, faster stronger and overall we see improvement.”
“We are trying to improve obviously. We want to be competitive in our conference”—the Northeastern Athletic Conference (NAC), which consists of schools from four different counties.
Dlwgosh noted one graduation loss, Tom Miller, an offensive and defensive lineman who started for three years. Yet Dlwgosh sees promise with current players, such as senior Hank Wagner, an offensive and defensive lineman. “We’re really counting on him.”
“We have a really nice junior class,” including Vin Narducci, at quarterback. Having started at guard as freshman, he stepped up as quarterback last year, Dlwgosh said. He is also the punter this year. “He’d play any place that we ask him.”
Another of the juniors is Will Anderson, a slot receiver and running back on offense and strong safety on defense.
Dlwgosh also praised Ryan Williams, a junior fullback and middle linebacker. “He’s a tough runner on offense and on defense. [He] will probably lead the team in tackles.”
In addition, Dlwgosh cited sophomore Anthony Severino, a wide receiver and free safety. “He’s a real playmaker. He’s improved a lot from last year. He had a great baseball season and that bolstered his confidence.”
So far, Saint John School is 2-3, having lost their first two games to Garfield Heights Trinity and Cleveland Wickliffe but bouncing back against Cleveland Beachwood. The Heralds then lost to Steubenville Catholic Central before winning against Southington Chalker. Their remaining opponents include Vienna Mathews, Windham, Fairport Harbor, Pymatuning Valley and Cleveland Lincoln West.
“Every school that we play is bigger than us and we play four schools that are a division or more bigger than us,” Dlwgosh said. “The disparity can be glaring.”
Still Dlwgosh notes that his players “improve on things every game as individuals and are learning things every game as a team. “We’re pleased with the direction we’re going, but we have to keep going forward.”
In addition, Dlwgosh said, “we want to win games but also improve as people. I feeI that if we get that down, the wins will start coming.”