The Holy Spirit High School football team finished 12-0 last season.

The Spartans won the state Non-Public III championship.

They beat northern New Jersey powers Pope John XXIII and St. Joseph Montvale.

Spirit shut out five opponents and beat each Cape-Atlantic League opponent by at least two touchdowns.

This year - as hard as it is to imagine - the Spartans could be even better.

"We're coming out this year to prove to people that we're going to be better than last year," Spirit senior linebacker Ethan Gambale said. "We worked hard last year. But the way we worked this year makes it look like we didn't do anything last year."

Spirit is No. 1 in The Press Elite 11 and the favorite to win the CAL National and state Non-Public II titles.

Spirit coach Charles Roman does not shy away from the high expectations.

"We're going to be a target (for other teams) regardless of what we say or don't say," he said. "We get that and we want that. If you're not a target, that means you're probably not very good. We strive to be the team to beat."

Spirit returns nine starters return on offense, including running back Donta Pollock, who rushed for 1,878 yards and 29 touchdowns last season.

"He's in the best shape of his life," Roman said. "The kid will gut out 40 carries for you no matter what."

Pollock runs by a huge offensive line that features 280-pound Joe Bodenlos and 285-pound Nico D'Angelo.

Senior Tom Hehre, a backup the last two seasons, steps in at quarterback.

"Hehre is a great character kid," Roman said. "He can run a little bit and that allows us to do some things with the option game that we haven't done in the past."

The Spartans also return dynamic players on defense. Nigel Jones, a standout running back who missed most of last season with an ankle injury, will primarily play free safety this fall.

Gambale and Dan Mastromatteo are standout linebackers.

Mastromatteo, who had 90 tackles and 11 sacks last season, verbally committed to the University of North Carolina.

As highly touted as they are, the Spartans won't get a chance to test themselves against a perennial northern New Jersey power. Spirit is now in the state Non-Public II enrollment group.

"If we don't win the state title, I would consider it a failed season, and I would not have done a good job," Roman said.

Contact Michael McGarry:

609-272-7185

HOLY SPIRIT

PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 25

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2010

PLAYOFF RECORD: 21-17

CHAMPIONSHIPS: 8

LEAGUE/GROUP: Cape-Atlantic League National/State Non-Public II

COACH: Charles Roman (27-6, three seasons)

2010 RECORD: 12-0

2011 PREDICTION: Favorite - Spirit is one of the top teams in the state and the favorite to win the state Non-Public II championship.

GAME TO WATCH: Oct. 1 at St. Joseph - This has become of the state's best rivalries the past five seasons. Both teams are defending state champions. Spirit won 35-0 last year.

 

Holy Spirit 2011 football schedule

Date Opponent Time
Sept. 9 at Oakcrest L, by forfeit
Sept. 16 vs. Absegami W, 42-14
Sept. 23 at Bridgeton W, 38-0
Oct. 1 at St. Joseph L, 34-7
Oct. 14 vs. Mainland Regional W, 28-14
Oct. 21 at Hammonton L, 37-14
Oct. 28 vs. Ocean City W, 42-6
Nov. 4 vs. St. Augustine Prep W, 37-0
Nov. 18 Playoff game TBA
Nov. 24 at Atlantic City 10 a.m.

Holy Spirit 2011 football roster

No. Name Position Year
2 Cinjun Erskine QB Fr.
6 Dawson AJ CB So.
7 Jeff Steeb LB, TE So.
8 CJ LaFragola DB Fr.
10 Tyler Flynn DB So.
11 Nigel Jones RB, DB Sr.
12 Ryan Halbe DB Sr.
13 Joe Dibonaventura DB So.
14 Cody Combs Sr.
15 Tyler Dowd ATH So.
18 Tom Hehre QB Sr.
19 Tommy Worthington K Sr.
20 Jack Cordivari DB So.
22 Donta Pollock RB, LB Sr.
23 TJ Anderson DB So.
24 Franco Rifici OLB So.
25 Harrison Gargel LB So.
26 Mike Bell LB Fr.
30 Chris Herse LB Jr.
31 Austin Theuret DB So.
35 Dandre Ddennis RB So.
37 Austin Nguyen DB So.
40 Jake O'Neil DB Jr.
43 Ryan Bunn LB Fr.
44 Mac Ailes ILB Sr.
47 Ethan Gambale LB Sr.
48 Mike Mooney FB, LB So.
49 Dan Mastromatteo (C) LB Sr.
55 Jalen Banks OL Sr.
56 Sebastian Ljoka DL Sr.
57 Alex Penny DE Sr.
60 Domenic LaFragola OC, DT Sr.
61 Robbie Rae OL So.
62 Joe Fairweather OL So.
64 AJ Thomas OT, DT Sr.
65 Eric Conklin OL Sr.
66 Matt LaSalla OG Sr.
67 Leo Troy So.
68 Joe Bodenlos OT Sr.
73 Steve Domonoski DL Jr.
74 Zyier Nicholson OG Jr.
75 Richard Shaffer OL So.
77 Nico D'Angelo OG Sr.
78 Sam Madden OT Fr.
81 Matt Rubino WR Sr.
82 Liam Nolan DB, WR Jr.
83 Jack Lynch DE So.
84 Chris Wenz WR Jr.
85 Zach Fabel TE Sr.
86 Nick Baxter TE Jr.
88 Jake Fabel DL So.