New signal-caller set to lead St. Vincent offense
No, that's not an error. St. Vincent accurately lists 12 quarterbacks on its football roster, the most of any team in the Presidents' Athletic Conference.
“That was not the plan,” coach Ron Dolciato said, “but it's been my experience through the years that when you have a really good quarterback, and he has a great year, and he's graduating, that kids look at that and we use it as a recruiting tool.
“We got four out of the five kids that we recruited for that position, so we're happy about that.”
The “really good quarterback” was Derek Stewart, a journeyman college player from the state of California who bounced around several Division II and III programs before finally winding up at D-III St. Vincent for his final season of college eligibility.
Stewart in 2016 passed for 2,973 yards and 29 touchdowns in helping St. Vincent to salvage a 5-5 record after the Bearcats got off to a hot 4-0 start.
“We lost a really good quarterback,” said Dolciato, who scrambled to add Stewart late after none of the 10 quarterbacks on his 2015 roster returned to campus for the 2016 season because of graduations, transfers or other circumstances.
“Having a good quarterback is a must if you're going to be successful,” Dolciato said.
Unfortunately for St. Vincent, despite returning nearly everybody on the offensive side, the Bearcats must replace Stewart and leading rusher Shavota Craft, both having graduated.
There will be plenty of options, it seems. Similar to the large number of quarterbacks, a total of 148 players make up the entire St. Vincent roster, continuing a tradition of Dolciato's.
“Actually,” he said, “I just carried that idea over from John Carroll (where Dolciato previously served as an assistant). We're trying to build a championship program here. We always had (roughly) 150 kids on the roster when I was there.”
John Carroll is ranked No. 8 in the d3football.com preseason poll after landing at No. 3 in the final 2016 rankings.
With Stewart taking almost exclusively all of the snaps last season for St. Vincent, Dolciato this year has been auditioning his quarterbacks in the preseason. He finally had a chance to see them perform in game conditions during a scrimmage last week against Juniata in advance of Saturday's regular-season opener at home against Alma (Mich.).
The group includes two sophomores in Michael Navarro, who helped Central Catholic to a pair of WPIAL Class AAAA championships, and Colt Roe, from Hudson (Ohio) Western Reserve Academy, as well as 10 freshmen, among them three from WPIAL schools: John Yester (Mt. Pleasant), Dylan Harshman (Connellsville) and Josh Hughes (Bentworth).
Jhanard Dorsett, the team's second-leading rusher behind Craft, returns with the most experience in the backfield.
Dolciato said there has been plenty of jockeying for starting spots on the defensive side, where his team is inexperienced. Senior outside linebacker Jean Cherilus, a three-year starter from South Plantation (Fla.), and junior safety Cameron Mack, from Beachwood (Ohio), are among the leaders.
“We had a great recruiting class. It's a special freshman class,” Dolciato said. “We've got kids from everywhere. The biggest thing is jelling them all together.”
Dave Mackall is a freelance writer.