New coach, new ballgame for St. Mary’s

Members of the St. Mary's football team run sprints at practice earlier this week. (Item Photo by Owen O'Rourke)

It’s a whole new ballgame for new St. Mary’s football coach Sean Driscoll.

“I had to catch myself before I got them all together and yelled ‘Go Vikings!,” said Driscoll, who’s now with the Spartans  after a long tenure at Winthrop.

At last week’s scrimmage against Northeast, the first thing you noticed was the ball going through the air more. Driscoll always had good quarterbacks at Winthrop and he sees no reason why his new team can’t throw the ball more.

And that’s true even if his projected starter, Conor Donohue, recovers from a strained shoulder suffered in that preseason scrimmage against Northeast. Donohue and Derek O’Leary had been pretty much even when it came to taking snaps in practices, and with Donohue out for four or five weeks, it’ll be O’Leary.

“We think we have some talent to catch the ball,” said Driscoll. “We try to keep it simple, but we have some guys who can catch it.”

Driscoll has some other reliable upperclassmen, and he’s confident that they will step up and lead.

One is junior safety/running back Lee Pacheco, who Driscoll calls a “competitive kid.” Another is senior Patrick Henry, a tight end/defensive end, who “plays hard, and plays fast. He’s a real physical kid.”

Coming out this fall is basketball star Jalen Echevarria, a senior who will also run the ball.

“Plus,” said Driscoll, “he has speed out wide. He’s a very talented kid.”

All in all, Driscoll says the Spartans have very talented athletes, “and we just have to find where they’ll be most competitive.”

Two others who have stepped up, Driscoll said, are Jack Maguire (linebacker/offensive guard) and D.J. DiCenso, a two-way tackle.

Driscoll is not anxious to tinker with the system that allowed the Spartans to have so much success in the last few years — success that resulted in a Super Bowl appearance in 2016 and a 10-1 season last fall.

“On defense, we are keeping the same system,” he said. “They had great defenses that allowed kids to get to the football.”

He says the Catholic Central League will be particularly interesting  this season as several teams will be playing with new coaches.

“There’s us, Williams and Arlington Catholic,” he said “It’s a tough league, though. I saw Fenwick in the 7v7 this summer, and they’ll be good.”

This year, with Austin Prep’s move to the small division, the Catholic Central League is unbalanced — five teams in the Large, seven in the small.

With a roster of 37 players, “we really hope we can stay healthy,” Driscoll said.

“We have a good rotation in the backfield, and defense should be the strength of the team.”

Though he’s not intimidated by replacing a coach (Matt Durgin) who brought the school so much success, Driscoll realizes what the former coach brought to the school, and to high school football.

“Matt’s a legend,” Driscoll said. “But more important than that, he’s a good man.”

And he’s certainly impressed with what Durgin helped build at St. Mary’s.

“I’m really impressed with the school,” he said, “especially the support of the staff. It’s a tribute to how they’ve built the school up.”

St. Mary’s opens the new season Friday night (7) at Manning Field against Millis.

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