By Tom Behrens
There are three things different this year for the Saint John XXIII Lions. They have a new head coach, Clay Richardson; more seating for their home field games; and a change in a schedule that is better suited for the Lions’ attendance numbers.
Richardson comes to Saint John XXIII and Katy via California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California, where he has coached the last 14 seasons and served as Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach the last 11. He said (while laughing) his only requirement for coming to Saint John was that he didn’t have to wear a parka.
The last couple years the Lions have had a tough time, winning only one game in the last two years. Last year’s record was 0-9.
The Lions will play a nine game schedule against a couple of traditional TAPPS opponents, including Second Baptist and Lutheran South, but will face new opponents Brook Hill, Village and Savio.
“We are taking a break from the top (TAPP) division. We won’t be playing St. Pius and St. Thomas. Our numbers are dwindling; we are probably at the next level down from what the school used to be.”
Some changes have been made in the Saint John XXIII stadium for this year. Bigger grandstands have been moved in for the home side, and the former home bleachers have been moved to the visiting side. The field has been re-sodded.
Games in the past two seasons that were home games on the schedule had to be played at the other school’s field because of inadequate seating for the number of expected fans coming to the game from the Saint John opponent.
“We had five home games scheduled, but due to the flooding at the nursery where the new sod was being grown, replacing the sod on the field has been delayed. We had to end up picking only three home games—one in September and two in October.” Check back at the school website in September for schedule location changes (sj23lions.org).
“This year the Lions will have 36 players for both the JV and varsity. “We will probably suit-up 21, 22 for the varsity, and 15 on the JV. Our kicker (Arthur Angelo) will probably play both JV and varsity.”
“We are going to play ironman football; most of the players will play both offense and defense,” said Richardson.
Who to watch this year: “I think we have some kids that I think will be pretty good. We have a running back, Daylon Flegeance, who will probably be sort of sub-running back and defensive back. Michael Gandolfo is our quarterback and he will probably see some time as third down defensive lineman because of his athleticism. Maybe with his spark, we can put a pass rush on. Alex Torres, I’m excited about. He’s a young kid, sophomore, but he’s going to get a chance to learn this year. Hopefully it will make him outstanding in the next couple of years.
Right now the Lions are just trying to get better every day. “I think with the schedule we have this year, it will give us a chance to be successful. It’s not a big division, but playing teams like us that are trying to regroup. We will improve.”