St. Augustine Prep shook up the South Jersey football scene when it hired former Villanova University assistant Mark Reardon as its head coach in January.

The move became even more dramatic when Reardon’s friend, Charles Roman, left Holy Spirit to become St. Augustine’s offensive coordinator. Roman coached Spirit to two state titles in four seasons, including last year’s Non-Public II championship.

Reardon acknowledges his hiring created expectations for the Hermits, but the team isn’t getting caught up in the hype.

“The expectation level that other people have for us is not necessarily the expectation level we have for ourselves,” Reardon said. “I’m not reinventing the wheel from a football perspective. We’re working hard, trying to get our message across to our kids and having them play the right way. It’s a cliché, but our focal point is the next practice, the next day, the next game.”

St. Augustine will have to overcome the loss of quarterback Joe Gatto, who started as a freshman and sophomore. The junior elected to focus on baseball.

Reardon said senior Alex Hughes is the top candidate to replace Gatto.

“He doesn’t have a whole lot of experience,” Reardon said, “but he has the makeup. He does not get fazed. He stands tall in the pocket and he does what we tell him.”

Freshman Jose Tabora from Egg Harbor Township is also in the mix at quarterback.

“He’s shown unbelievable poise,” Reardon said. “He’s special. He’s going to be a very good player as we move forward.”

But St. Augustine does return some talented players around whom it can build. Running back Calvin Cass emerged as one of the area’s best last season. He rushed for 336 yards in a 34-13 win over Paul VI last November. Cass averaged 10.7 yards in his 46 carries.

“He’s powerful running the football,” Reardon said. “I’m excited to see him run the ball.”

Justyce Pollitt, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior wide receiver, runs the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds.

“We’re going to get the ball in his hands and let him do his thing,” Reardon said.

Cass and Pollitt will both be in the defensive backfield. Linebacker Corey Pietrzyk is an excellent defender against the run.

Reardon said about 85 players, including freshmen, are involved in the program. The Hermits are young. The team features just nine seniors, so St. Augustine’s success this season might depend on how quickly its inexperienced players mature.

Contact Michael McGarry:

609-272-7185