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Roncalli returns experienced football squad

Aberdeen Roncalli head football coach Billy Young, center, talks to his players before the start of Thursday evening’s scrimmage on the practice field near the high school. The Cavaliers open their season Friday by hosting St. Thomas More. Photo by John Davis taken 8/12/2021

They have endured a few lean years and now a seasoned group of Aberdeen Roncalli football players is ready to turn the tables this fall.

The Cavaliers return a variety of starters on both sides of the ball, some who have started for multiple seasons.

“We’ve got, I think, for the first time in a couple years some really good experience coming back and I’m hoping that that will pay off,” said Roncalli coach Billy Young. “We definitely took our lumps the last couple of years starting as many freshmen and sophomores as we have. But we did that kind of taking the long view knowing that here in a couple of years it will come back to hopefully give us a shot in the arm.”

Roncalli has a lot of experience in the skill positions on offense led by junior quarterback Jackson Isakson, who has been the starting signal caller for the past two seasons. He will be joined in the backfield by Maddox May and Abe Kretchman. The duo features different skill sets. May is a more of a power runner, while Kretchman is known for his quickness.

“That gives us a really good 1-2 punch. They’re a good combination,” Young said. “They compliment each other really well.”

Phillip Zens returns to his wing position where he brings his playmaking ability. The offensive line is anchored by two-year starters Brenden Livermont and Carson Helms.

Young said the defense will be led by the secondary, which features five players in a 4-2-5 lineup.

“We really feel like our secondary is our strong suit, defensively,” Young said. “There’s been a lot of competition for those spots.”

May and Helms will man linebackers spots, while the defensive line will be led by Livermont and Joey Johnson up front.

Young said the biggest factor for the Cavaliers will be the third component of football, special teams.

Isakson kicks and punts for Roncalli. Last year he booted a school-record 49-yard field goal. The team also has a pair of quality return guys, according to Young.

“Our special teams, I think, are as good as anybody. We’ve got Jackson at kicker and punter. We’ve got a couple of guys (Ben Rohl and Kretchman) back deep that can return a kickoff to the house at any time,” Young said. “I really feel good about our special teams. I feel like that could potentially win us two or three games this year.”

Young said the team doesn’t talk too much about long-term goals, instead choosing to focus on the present.

“Our goal every week is just to win that game and not look too far down the road,” he said.

When asked about a key component of this year’s team, Young said the players are not afraid of tackling a challenge, noting they were not intimidated by facing much bigger schools in team camps this past summer.

“They’re really competitive and they don’t seem to get rattled very much,” Young said. “Whatever the challenge is, they step up to. They don’t back down.”

The first challenge on the schedule takes place this Friday when the Cavaliers open their season against perennial power St. Thomas More at 5 p.m. at Swisher Field.

“It will be a good challenge for us early to see where we stand,” Young said. “They’ve got some good players coming back. They also lost some really good players, too.”

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