Coming off a 2-8 season, the outlook may not be as bleak as one might assume for second-year head coach Joe Faiola, who only had 14 players available for the Santa Fe Catholic Hawks' spring game. He now holds a 32-man roster with eight returning starters, but at least four that will have to play both offense and defense without much of a breather.

“The biggest overall challenge, even back in the spring, was improving our offensive line play. Our goal is to win the battle at the line of scrimmage," Faiola said. "Our two line coaches (Corey Swanson and Doug Bresciani) are doing outstanding jobs."

 

OFFENSE

Look for anything from a two-back set to an empty backfield. Look for fullback Gabe Alvarez to get plenty of carries. Quarterback Logan Wright, who throws right-handed and was known for accuracy, has improved arm strength, according to Faiola.

“He has really stepped into a bigger leadership role this year,” Faiola said. “Alvarez had to play guard the past few years, but he takes people off their feet.”

Dawson Smith joins the Hawks after moving in from Minnesota. He will line up at slot receiver and Faiola calls him a “penny from heaven.”

 

DEFENSE

The Hawks will once again base out of a 4-4 but will try to be more aggressive and not play as much gap-control schemes. Jordan Eady should make a big impact at defensive end. Landon Wilkes will join Alvarez at linebacker.

“We tried a lot of gap control last year and I wasn’t really satisfied with it,” Faiola said. “Wilkes is new to football but he has really stepped up.”

Smith will play safety. Faiola said he has great vision on the field and is very aggressive.

“He may be 150 pounds, but he hits like he is 200 pounds," Faiola said. "He has great awareness on the field. We look for him to lead from the safety spot."

 

OUTLOOK

Despite coming off a very tough season, the Hawks are competing in the SSAC Florida Championship Series West, which is just a three-team division. They need to just win one of two games to reach the playoffs, either at Tampa Bayshore Christian on Sept. 13 or with cross-county rival All Saints Academy on Oct. 17 in the regular-season finale. If the Hawks stay healthy, improve each week and don’t make costly mistakes, a postseason berth is possible — but not easy.