Aquinas was an undefeated Class AA high school football champion last fall. While there is some carry over from that team, including junior quarterback Jake Zembiec, it is not nearly enough that the Little Irish expect to cruise through 2014.
“All of those guys on the All-Greater Rochester team are gone,” Aquinas coach Chris Battaglia said.
Not quite. Zembiec, the Class AA state player of the year, and 6-foot-3, 300-pound offensive lineman Nick Velte are back among that group of eight AGR selections. They will be the foundation of an offense that should have some continuity with eight starters back.
“In a case like Earnest (Edwards) and Jamir (Jones), those were kids who weren’t counted on as leaders,” Battaglia said. “This year they have to be. When you lose all of that group, you need kids who played last year to take the leadership role, especially on defense.
“Those are two of the kids we are counting on. If they can’t do it, I think we’re going to have a lot of trouble.”
Nick Velte is strong on the line for Aquinas.
2013 record: 13-0, Class AA state champion.
Coach: Chris Battaglia (13th year at Aquinas, 18th overall, 120-51-2).
First game: Friday, Sept. 5 vs. Buffalo Bishop Timon, 7 p.m. at Aquinas.
Returning starters: 8 offense, 4 defense.
Players to watch: Jake Zembiec (junior, QB, 6-3, 205 pounds, 1,932 passing yards with 26 touchdowns); Jamir Jones (jr., WR/LB, 6-3, 215); Nick Velte (sr., OL/DL, 6-3, 300); AJ LoBrutto (sr. RB/LB, 5-7, 200); Terrance Richards (sr., SS/RB, 5-10, 205).
Keys to success: About 2/3 of the defense are new starters. The Little Irish seem to improve in this area year after year. Can this group reach the same level as 2013, if you are talking about state championship-caliber? … Jones and Edwards, a 5-10, 150-pound receiver, are among the juniors in the light. “They must play like seniors,” Battaglia said. … There are enough players for a decent-sized roster, but injuries would hurt because the reserves have very little varsity experience.
Outlook: Teams change, but Aquinas has won Section V championships each of the last eight seasons. Aquinas is the team to beat in Class AA, so 9-for-9 is within reach. The Little Irish should score in the 30s and history shows that by the postseason, their defense can limit teams deep in the sectionals to a touchdown.
— James A. Johnson (@jjDandC) August 18, 2014