1999 Season Preview
Catholic University, which went 10-1 and advanced to the NCAA playoffs each of the past two years, moves from an independent to the Old Dominion Athletic Conference in 1999. The Cardinals hope to join Emory & Henry (10-0) and Randolph-Macon (7-3) atop the ODAC standings.
"Our goal is to win the conference championship," said Coach Tom Clark, who is 10-1-1 against ODAC teams. "We're excited about some of the new challenges on our schedule."
The Cards, who had the nation's 26th-most prolific scoring offense in 1998 (36.4 ppg), are led by sophomore quarterback Derek McGee, senior running back Andrew Notarfrancesco and senior All-American wide receiver Mike Hunter. McGee, who started all 11 games in '98, completed 135 of 260 passes (.519) for 1,732 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Junior Ryan Zarzycki enters as McGee's principal backup. Notarfrancesco, the only back in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons, was the nation's 20th-leading rusher (127.9 ypg) and ninth-leading scorer (13.0 ppg) last year. He is backed up by talented sophomore Dan Boyle, who rushed for 379 yards (6.3 avg.) and seven TDs. Sophomores Phil Anderson and Kevin Ulrich are short-yardage specialists.
Hunter caught 87 passes for 1,279 yards and 12 TDs in '98 to rank third nationally in receptions per game and fourth in receiving yards per game. Other wide receivers expected to make an impact are freshmen Jim Jankiewicz and Dan Evans, junior Keith Brancato, sophomore Tokollo Moffat, seniors Aaron Ybarra (16 receptions for 223 yards and three TDs in '98) and Brad Jones, and sophomore transfer Brian Gallagher. A starter last season at Lafayette, Gallagher might also take a few snaps at quarterback.
Sophomore Damian Richard, who had six receptions and two TDs last season, has the inside track to become CUA's starting tight end. Senior John DeCicco is a good blocking tight end.
"We want to improve on offense and try to recapture some of the success of the '97 campaign," Clark said. "With a young offensive team last year, we should improve this season."
On the offensive line, the Cards' projected starting five are senior Dan Riely at right tackle, junior Anthony Bottoni at right guard, sophomore Nick Faiola at center, junior Tim McCarthy at left guard and sophomore Puri Garzone at left tackle. Top reserves are sophomore Joe Bauer and juniors Matt Schlindwein, Glenn Benjamin and Brian Mullen.
Catholic returns five starters to a unit that ranked 11th nationally in rushing defense (76.2 ypg). Spearheading the crew are senior linebacker Brian Hee and senior defensive end Richard Change. Hee led the team in tackles with 73 and tied for second in tackles for loss (6.5). Change paced CUA in sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (9.5), and is probably the Cards' most athletic defender. Juniors Tim Whitney and Chris Gorman and sophomores Ben Bailey and Jimmy Nalls are prime candidates to become the Cardinals' other two starting linebackers. A host of freshmen are expected to compete for playing time as well.
"Defensively we have to overcome the loss of some outstanding players, but I feel like there's some good young talent in the program that can step up," Clark said. "And we will put a major emphasis on improving our special teams."
Tim Varian, who had six sacks in '98, looks to start at defensive end, with Jonah Burrelli as the principal reserve. Senior Joe Marino returns from a 1998 knee injury and is expected to start at defensive tackle alongside sophomore Matt Steiner. Junior Geoff DeOliveira, sophomore Drew Anderson and freshman Gary Mann give CUA depth.
The Cards' secondary looks good with the return of junior strong safety David Thornton and sophomore cornerbacks James Parker and John Quinn. Juniors Larry Waters and transfer Drew Interdonato will vie to start at free safety. Senior Jeff Keating adds depth to the secondary.
The Cardinals' punting is solid with sophomore Mike Fleet (36.4 avg.), while freshman Greg Stokes and senior Anthony Caprio will battle to become the No. 1 placekicker. Gallagher and Jankiewicz are expected to be the club's punt returners and Boyle and Moffat look to handle kick-return duties. Other top special teams performers include Bailey, DeCicco, Nalls, Keating and Waters.