OCEAN CITY — Nate Fondacaro got off some booming punts that drew applause from the crowd Saturday morning at Villanova University’s annual football practice at Carey Stadium.
Fondacaro, a sophomore out of St. Augustine Prep, is the Villanova punter and kickoff man and is in a battle to become the field-goal kicker.
The team looked sharp on a warm sunny day, and Fondacaro had a lot to do. The team worked out in different groups focused on all aspects of the game from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
“It was a good day overall,” said Fondacaro, a 19-year-old resident of Sewell, Gloucester County. “I feel like I performed well in punts and kickoffs. I had mostly touchbacks today. The field goals were good. There’s only one I didn’t make, so overall a solid day. We’re getting ready for Colgate (the season opener away on Aug. 24), so we’re very excited.”
Fondacaro said the practice was awesome.
“There’s nothing better than getting to be with the team in Ocean City and having my family down. My family has a house in Sea Isle.”
The kicker-punter says he believes the Wildcats will have a really good year.
“There’s something about the team this year that’s much more selective,” Fondacaro said. “We’re playing more as a team this year. We have a lot of young guys, a lot of new quarterbacks that are going to help the team.
“Right now, I’m second on the depth chart for field goals, but we’re working for it. It’s a work in progress. I’m trying to get better and do what I can to help this team.”
At St. Augustine, Fondacaro was also a swimmer for four years for the Hermits. He was a key member of the 2017 team that won the state Non-Public A boys swimming title.
“I miss swimming a little bit, and I was actually there when they were in the state finals this winter,” he said. “But I’m having a lot of fun playing football.”
Villanova coach Mark Ferrante had high praise for Fondacaro, and for teammates Qwahsin Townsel (St. Joseph) and Elijah Glover (Pleasantville). Ferrante said offensive lineman Paul Meduri (St. Augustine) is injured and didn’t practice Saturday.
“We have a little bit of both (youth and experience),” Ferrante said. “We have a lot of guys back with game experience, but we did graduate quite a few seniors. The reason some of our young guys got game experience last year was because a lot of our seniors were injured during the course of the year.”
The Wildcats, a member of the Colonial Athletic Association, were 5-6 last year. Villanova is in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, known as Division I-AA until 2006.
“We started off the season beating Temple when we were healthy and it looked like we were going in a good direction,” Ferrante said. “But in Week 4, we lost our starting quarterback, our starting tight end and some of those guys. So we stumbled a bit in the middle, and we finished up strong and beat our rival, Delaware, at the end of the season.”
Fondacaro punted 51 times for Villanova last year, with a 41.0-yard average. He had 10 punts for 50 yards or longer and 15 were downed inside the 20. His longest was a 63-yarder against Maine.
“Nate did a great job,” Ferrante said. “Came in as a true freshman and had a great year. He just didn’t get any league recognition last year because there were also some pretty good punters in the CAA. We’re excited to have Nate back and hopefully he’ll hold down the punting duties for us the next three years. Right now, he’s battling for the placement kicks, the field goals and extra points.”
Townsel, a former Press Football Player of the Year, is a redshirt freshman. He is a 6-foot, 220-pound linebacker.
“We only lost one linebacker to graduation last year, so Qwahsin was able to redshirt last year,” Ferrante said. “He’s had a really good offseason and a really good preseason. He’s a phenomenal athlete. We’re excited for him. He has a real bright future.”
Glover is a 6-1 freshman defensive back.
“Elijah Glover is going to be a real good defensive back for us,” Ferrante said. “He’s very athletic, similar to Qwahsin. They’re actually great friends. They know each other from home and hang around together and work out in the summer. He has real good size for a DB. We think he’ll be able to help us as a first-year player.”