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Transfer quarterback set lead St. Vincent offense

Paul Schofield
| Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, 6:15 p.m.
St. Vincent's Shavonta Craft, a Jeannette graduate, ran for 813 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore and 437 yards in 2015.
St. Vincent athletics
St. Vincent's Shavonta Craft, a Jeannette graduate, ran for 813 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore and 437 yards in 2015.
St. Vincent's Shavonta Craft
St. Vincent athletics
St. Vincent's Shavonta Craft

St. Vincent coach Ron Dolciato thought he was set at quarterback last season with the emergence of Tyler Donahue, the Presidents' Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year.

But after Donahue left for personal reasons and his backup transferred, Dolciato was left with no experience at the quarterback position.

Dolciato recruited six freshmen and had decided on one. But before camp began, Derek Stewart transferred to St. Vincent. He threw for 2,247 yards and 15 touchdowns at West Los Angeles College. He also attended Minnesota Crookston, Dubuque and Humboldt State.

When St. Vincent opens the season Saturday at Alma, Mich., Stewart will be behind center.

“He's the most polished quarterback we have,” Dolciato said. “He gives us experience, and we expect him to run our offense, just not manage it.”

Stewart, a native of Carson, Calif., possesses a strong arm and good running ability. Dolciato said Donahue's strength was his running ability. Stewart threw for more than 6,000 yards and 50 touchdowns at Cabrillo High.

With Stewart's ability and the return of senior running Shavonta Craft (Jeannette) and wide receivers Damon Black, D.J. Oceant-Kelly and Ariel Martinez, St. Vincent's offense is capable of being explosive.

Craft, who rushed for 813 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore, gained 437 yards in 2015. Black led the team with 37 receptions for 583 yards and seven touchdowns.

“Shavonta is one of the best backs in the conference,” Dolciato said. “We have to do a better job getting him the ball. He gets stronger the more times he touches it.”

Craft said coming from Jeannette helped with his work ethic.

“We always worked hard at Jeannette,” Craft said. “I'm looking forward to my senior season. There is a good quarterback battle at camp. We'll find a good starter and backup. It's been a good competition.”

St. Vincent also has a new defensive coordinator. Shawn Rohrer returned to the Bearcats staff after coaching defense at Washington & Jefferson the past five seasons.

“We're learning a new system,” said Dolciato, whose team finished 4-6 last season. “I thought the defense performed well in our scrimmage at Juniata.”

Dolciato said he was pleased all-conference safety Derek Anderson decided to return for his final season.

Others expected to contribute on defense include outside linebacker T.J. Feeney, inside linebackers Matt McCarthy and Matt Jenkins, defensive linemen Cody Henry (Latrobe) and Nick Nitowski and defensive back Darrell Burrell.

After two nonconference road games, St. Vincent opens conference play Sept. 17 against Geneva at home.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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