St. Mary's senior Sal Afflitto will play a key role at running back and defensive back for the Spartans this season. (Item File Photo)

St. Mary’s football returns a young, athletic bunch

LYNN -- With just five seniors, the St. Mary's football team will be on the young side this season, but that doesn't mean it will be lacking in terms of athletes.

"It's a young team and there’s good news and bad news that comes with that," St. Mary's coach Sean Driscoll said. "But we still have a lot of returners who got experience last year.

"We have a very enthusiastic bunch and they're all getting reps in as best they can," Driscoll said. "They all seemed to be clicking last week. A lot of them are really just young in terms of school, but as far as their athletic ability the experience is there. That experience has been a huge help."

Of course, a lot of that enthusiasm is natural for any football team after getting on the field last week for the first time in more than a year. Things have been moving fast, but Driscoll believes the Spartans are right on track so far.

"I’ll tell you, for not knowing what to expect coming into this year it’s gone really well," Driscoll said. "The kids are excited and we got in a good first week of practice. We're used to having all summer and a whole offseason preparing so it's been about getting in shape. We're learning to crawl before we walk."

Thankfully, the Spartans have a handful of players that are coming fresh off a basketball season that wrapped up a few weeks ago.

"Ali Barry is right in the mix at quarterback for us," Driscoll said. "He's coming off the basketball court, just like a lot of my team is. David Brown Jr. is also going to be key for us. Him getting some playing time last year really helped us."

The senior class may be small, but there are still some key returners among that bunch too. Sal Afflitto will be a familiar face at running back and defensive back, while Zach Barden packs a punch at linebacker and fullback. Tony Bello also returns to help anchor both the offensive and defensive line.

"Those are three big returning seniors for us," Driscoll said. "We haven't really worked out the specifics on captains but those guys will be our leaders either way.

"Then we have young guys too like Jack Marks," Driscoll said. "He plays defensive line and tight end, played both sides of the ball last year too and had a really nice season for us."

Coming off a 6-5 season with ups and downs, the Spartans will be looking to keep getting some of that experience under their belts. As for the season, Driscoll and company are hoping to be right in the mix of a competitive Catholic Central League this spring.

"Number one, we want to try to win the CCL," Driscoll said. "Right now we're looking at a seven-game league schedule, which is really what everyone's hoping for. There's no tournament or playoffs but we can’t dwell on that. We want to start off on a good note and get going in the right direction early. With two weeks of preseason, that's going to come down to how much we can get done in that time."

And St. Mary's has a tough test waiting for them as soon as those two weeks are up. The Spartans will kick off the season March 12 (6) with a visit to rival Bishop Fenwick, a team coming off an appearance in the Division 6 Super Bowl last season.

"There's not much time and we have to come out ready to go," Driscoll said. "I was telling the team the other night, we are going to try to take it a play at a time, one quarter at a time. We're focusing on those small increments and hopefully we can get better and improve in each one."

More Stories From Lynn