Pre Snap Read
Coach: Mike Brodowicz, fourth season
Conference: Southern Carolinas Conference
2016 Record: 13-2, 7-0
This is a younger Charlotte Catholic team compared to the last two seasons; however, most of the players have been in the system since middle school at Holy Trinity. Catholic hasn’t lost a conference game since 2009 and is two years removed since its undefeated state championship run. The Cougars moved from the 4A level to the 3A classification and joined the Southern Carolinas Conference.
Catholic’s Wing-T offense centers on senior running back Milan Howard, who claims multiple scholarship offers. Howard is expected to build on last season’s output of 126 carries for 1,080 yards and 12 touchdowns and 20 receptions for 368 yards and three touchdowns.
Junior Michael Neel, another reliable ball carrier and pass catcher, will complement Howard.
The Cougars will be experienced in the trenches with four out of the five players that started in last season’s state semifinal loss to Dudley back, which gives offensive line coach Frank Garcia a strong foundation to work with. Returning starter Malik McGowan, a sophomore, will man the right tackle spot, while sophomore Davis Hodgens slides from left guard to left tackle. Senior Jacob Smith moves from right tackle to right guard. Billy Hambrook, who had a successful season on the JV in 2016, will start at left guard. Senior Jimmy Whalen is back at center. Alex Fotiadis, Cullen McQuary, Luke Gagnon and Matthew Hyatt will add depth up front.
Catholic’s greatest unknown is at quarterback. Senior Jackson Cure and last year’s JV quarterback Chris Walton are competing for the starting job.
Catholic will be without its top two targets from last year. However, Holden Schachte, Will Clouden, Garrett McCurden, Mason McBride and Pollock should contribute at a high level. Ryan Pollock, Sam Broom, Riley Berger, Adam Robbe and Brian Jacobs will see action at wide receiver when Catholic goes to its specialty package.
The Cougars 4-3, cover two scheme should continue to stymie opposing offenses.
This unit’s strength is its front seven, which is led by junior defensive tackle Ari Rodriguez and senior middle linebacker Chase Foley. Rodriguez brings an explosive disrupter at the point of contact, while Foley, who gets his teammates in position, provides stability at the next level.
Jack Morgan and Reid Peterson join Rodriguez on the interior of Catholic’s defensive line. Sean Burns and Drew Pechulonis are expected to provide quality depth there, too. Junior Kevin Coss and sophomore Drew Della-Mea will start at defensive end. James Gatton and Jack Dumser will help significantly at defensive end.
Seniors Tanner Dominick and Alexei Strouse will be Foley’s bookends at outside linebacker. Billy Brewer can play middle linebacker and outside linebacker. Chase’s younger brother Ty Foley, is in the mix for starting at outside linebacker. Jacobs brings versatility to the unit with his ability to play safety or outside linebacker. Sophomore linebacker Jacob Schachte will be a key part of the rotation, too.
Senior cornerback Sam Broom, who was the top backup last season, will start this fall. Junior Adam Robbe is back at free safety. Junior Riley Berger can play cornerback and strong safety. Senior Quinton Huggins is competing for a significant role at cornerback.
Drew Morais returns to handle the kicking and punting duties. Howard and Neel will return kickoffs, while Jacobs and Howard will field punts.
In the Spotlight: Ari Rodriguez
Rodriguez enters his third year on the varsity. He might be Catholic’s best overall player and can play every position on the defensive line. Rodriguez, who started every game last season, forces double teams. He is a high motor kid that gives the Cougars someone who isn’t afraid to mix it up.
– Ben Doster