BRISTOL - A 6-4 season may be considered successful for some teams. The St. Paul football program expects more, however, and this year’s team has the potential for great improvement.
It all starts in Week 1 against a formidable opponent, Sacred Heart.
Last season in the opening game against Sacred Heart, St. Paul lost 34-22.
St. Paul’s defense was exploited through the air and that is something head coach Jude Kelly and his staff worked to fix for this season.
“That was a game that we were really disappointed to lose,” senior lineman Dominic Aiello said. “That was a good football team, they have good athletes and they played really good defense. So we’re looking forward to competing this game and coming out with a win.”
Aiello leads the line unit alongside Eric Langland. Both seniors are expected to play major roles.
The ground game is a strong suit for the Falcons as Damien Rabis and Chris Dionne bring different running styles to the field.
Rabis is more of the speed back and Dionne is a power back.
The two believe they can bring stability to the St. Paul offense and lead them to a successful year.
“We expect to have a good season,” Rabis said. “Getting a win Week 1 starts that. Getting our techniques right and getting everybody playing well and doing their job right is important.”
Any time defense is brought up the St. Paul players get excited as it is something the team prides itself on. After giving up 34 points to Sacred Heart last season, redemption may not be used around the team but St. Paul is expecting a much better effort defensively.
“Defensively we’re all going to come out hard and play the St. Paul style of defense that we’re used to,” Dionne said.
Dionne is a leader of the senior class. For him and his fellow seniors, game one is a must win if the group hopes to reach that next level.
“All of us seniors want to have the most successful season yet,” Dionne said. “We have a small group, there’s six or seven of us, and we’re all pretty close knit and we just want to lead the team to the best possible outcome.”
Starting the season against Sacred Heart will give St. Paul a good indicator of where it stands.
“They’ve got a lot of kids that are pretty athletic,” Kelly said. “The coach does a good job with them. They’re motivated and they got some tough kids. They’re good, both offensively and defensively.”
Kelly is expecting his group of seniors to set the tone early on, especially on the line.
“Hopefully the seniors are ready to rise to the occasion,” Kelly said. “We have two outstanding seniors that are lineman. Dominic Aiello and Eric Langland so I’m counting on them because with this offense it all starts with the offensive line so those guys gotta do their job.”
At quarterback, Kevin Ashworth will again start this season. After a full season under his belt running the wishbone offense, Kelly is expecting a big step forward from Ashworth as he can use his athleticism to run the ball but also has the arm strength to air it out downfield.
On the practice field, a sense of excitement and urgency is evident as St. Paul hopes to not only win the NVL but also make a statement in the postseason chase.