St. Mary’s eager to turn fortunes around
St. Mary’s took its lumps in the abbreviated 2020-21 spring football season, but that did little to temper the Crusaders’ enthusiasm going forward.
Growing pains are part of the process.
St. Mary’s won only one of its four games and allowed 52.3 points per game in its three setbacks.
However, starters return to 16 of the 22 offensive and defensive positions, and although the Crusaders will still be on the young side — quarterback Eli Haynes and running back/linebacker Beau Aldrich are the lone seniors — they’ve gained valuable exposure to varsity play.
“We’re a young team this year, really,” said head coach Jamie Young, entering his 12th season, “and we’re a team that will have some younger guys get some experience. I think that’s really going to put us in a great spot down the road. It’s a good group of kids, and we’re excited to get back on a normal football-type schedule.”
As with most teams, St. Mary’s schedule was interrupted by a reshaped OSAA calendar that had high school winter sports stretching into early summer. That prevented the Crusaders from participating in a team camp they’d attended for a decade.
St. Mary’s typically coordinates the camp, in Astoria, with the time it can spend in pads and gets a good dress rehearsal in July.
“In that sense, (summer preparation) was significantly different,” said Young.
That and lower than usual player numbers — a byproduct of a school year dealing with COVID-19 — were initially a concern, but the offseason workout turnout proved encouraging.
“We got everything that we wanted to installed, in terms of our offensive and defensive schemes,” said Young. “We had a great turnout of kids. We have some low numbers, but we got them all there this summer, got them in the weight room and did our work on the field.”
Now it’s a matter of bringing the pieces together on Friday nights.
The offense could be characterized as a thunder-and-lightning show.
Bruising running back Aldrich is sure to impart a few headaches to opposing defenders, and when gains need to be made through the air, Haynes showed last season he can strike quickly.
Aldrich is 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, considerably bigger than most of the defensive players he’ll encounter.
“We have the ability to do some things with Beau at running back that are exciting and very unique to what we’ve had in previous years,” said Young, recalling the likes of recent, smaller ball carriers Gavin Rajagopal, Brady Eiler and Will Heycke.
Aldrich’s style is far different.
“He’s a much more physical runner,” said Young. “He’d rather go over you than around you, but he’s pretty agile for a big guy. And he understands the game. I mean, he’s a coach’s son, and we’re expecting big things out of him.”
Aldrich’s father, Josh, is the team’s offensive coordinator.
One reason for excitement over the running game is an offensive line that figures to be a strength of the Crusaders, said Young.
Returning starters are center Kyan Hidde (6-1, 220), guards AJ Borovansky (5-10, 245) and Ethan Cano (5-10, 180) and tackle Ty Kronenberger (5-11, 250).
“They do have some talented kids around them who can do exciting things with the football,” said Young, “but — and I think this is true just about everywhere — your offensive line is the heart and soul of your team.”
Haynes figures to benefit as well.
In three games last spring, he completed 28 of 55 passes for 378 yards and six touchdowns, with four interceptions.
Haynes first showed his mettle as a sophomore at the team summer camp when he filled in “remarkably well,” said Young, for an injured Aliiloa Kaeo-Wailehua. He’s matured even more the past few months.
“He’s making great decisions, he’s physically matured,” said Young. “He’s developed a confidence, a trust in his receivers. He’s a great team guy, and I think the other players have a lot of faith in him as well.”
Tyson Delplanche will provide a change of pace in the backfield and can also be split wide. Heemir Patel, a starter at defensive end, takes over the No. 1 tight end duties, and Jaden Foster, who suffered a broken collarbone and missed the spring season, will be relied on as a playmaker at receiver.
Defensively, many of the same cast will be employed, led by linebackers Aldrich, Hidde and sophomore Indiana Olson.
Tackle Borovansky committed himself in the offseason to getting stronger, to the point, said Young, that he won weightlifting competitions. He’ll form a solid front with nose guard Kronenberger and Patel.
The secondary is in good hands with strong safety Cano, a hard-nosed, physical player to spearhead a group that includes Delplanche, Foster and TJ Flowers.
As pleased as Young is with his personnel, the team’s success hinges largely on the starters staying healthy and the reserves developing at an accelerated pace.
“Our issue, and this is on both sides of the ball, is more a matter of depth,” said Young. “We’re going to be filling in with a lot of younger kids, and that’s the part that can be challenging over the course of a full season.”
If the Crusaders meet that challenge, contention for the state playoffs is realistic.
“We want to be in the conversation,” said Young.
Jamie Young (12th year, 50-47)
St. Mary’s gained experience in the spring and is hopeful a roster full of returning starters will lead it back to the state playoffs, for which the Crusaders qualified in 2019.
ASSISTANTS: Josh Aldrich (offensive coordinator), Joe Kronenberger (offensive line/defensive line), Kevin Bendaw (defensive back), Stephen Thomas (offensive line/defensive line), Tanny Flowers (special teams/running backs).
2020-21 OVERALL RECORD: 1-3.
PREDICTED FINISH THIS YEAR: Fourth.
St. Mary’s Opponents
32 Amity 34
55 Lost River 0
49 Regis 20
56 Gold Beach 6
60 Douglas 20
26 Hidden Valley 49
14 Brookings-Harbor 3
58 South Umpqua 20
7 Cascade Christian 61
27 Clatskanie 56
St. Mary’s Opponents
0 South Umpqua 48
6 Cascade Christian 55
28 Brookings-Harbor 6
42 Douglas 54
OFFENSE (7): Quarterback Eli Haynes (6-2, 185, sr.), tackle Ty Kronenberger (5-11, 250, jr.), guard AJ Borovansky (5-10, 245, jr.), center Kyan Hidde (6-1, 220, jr.), guard Ethan Cano (5-10, 180, jr.), running back Beau Aldrich (6-1, 245, sr.), receiver Jaden Foster (6-2, 185, jr.).
DEFENSE (9): Free safety Jaden Foster, cornerback Tyson Delplanche (5-10, 160, jr.), linebacker sophomore Indiana Olson (6-0, 175, so.), linebacker Beau Aldrich, strong safety Ethan Cano, linebacker Kyan Hidde, tackle AJ Borovansky, nose guard Ty Kronenberger, end Heemir Patel (6-1, 195, jr.).
Safety/receiver/quarterback TJ Flowers (5-11, 170, so.), receiver/safety Spencer Patten (5-11, 170, jr.), offensive tackle/defensive tackle Rex Smith (6-3, 220, so.).
Sept. 3 NORTH VALLEY, 7 p.m., at Sutherlin
Sept. 10 at Illinois Valley, 7 p.m.
Sept. 17 PLEASANT HILL, 7 p.m.
Sept. 24 at Harrisburg, 7 p.m.
Oct. 1 SOUTH UMPQUA, 7 p.m.
Oct. 8 at Cascade Christian, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 TBD
Oct. 22 at Sutherlin, 7 p.m.
Oct. 29 at Douglas, 7 p.m.
Tim Trower is a freelance writer. To comment on this article, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.