It was the perfect end of the season, and an ideal end of Joe DeSimone’s career as Cardinal Spellman football coach.
The Falcons defeated Bronx rival Cardinal Hayes, 8-6, to win the CHSFL Class A championship in DeSimone’s final game after seven years in charge of the program in November.
Dan Crane was named head coach in mid-July, but things haven’t gone quite as smoothly for the former junior varsity coach.
“We lost most of our talent, though, and we’re very lean, too,” Crane said. “I think out of juniors and seniors we have probably about 36 kids. We’re probably not going to have a JV program because we’re going to have to carry the sophomores up on varsity.”
Crane, who has coached in the Spellman football program for 12 years after initially coming to the school to coach the softball team in 1995, said his team is so thin that two juniors who have never played football will start this season.
He said a season-opening scrimmage against Hackley was eye-opening.
“We found out a lot of things that needs to change and one of them is coaching,” Crane said, citing the extra preparation needed to coach on the varsity level. “We need to adjust our game as well as the kids adjusting their games.”
Spellman isn’t completely devoid of talent, though. Senior returner Tony Ward is back and he’ll likely be the team’s feature back. He joins senior defensive tackle Kyle Krynicki and two-way, 300-pound lineman Kyohn Lockhart back from last year’s championship team.
But Crane is still searching for the leader, which was never in question a year ago.
Quarterback Damir Redzepagic was the heart and soul of the team, while Devon Osei, who scored the tying touchdown in the CHSFL Class A title game, was the Falcons star running back.
But with the exception of Ward, Krynicki and Lockhart, Spellman is young and Crane finds himself teaching more than coaching, spending more time in the classroom than the football field.
“Not as much time as we would like in the trenches, not enough time working on the skills, tackling and blocking, because there is so much teaching going on,” Crane said.
While he said the Falcons might be in rebuilding mode for the next couple of years, Crane said things are looking up, thanks in part to aggressive assistant Kyle O’Donnell.
“This the first time since I’ve been there, and that’s since 1995, that we actually have two coaches on the varsity that are teachers in the building,” Crane said. “That’s very, very helpful.”
What will also be helpful is another week to prepare for the team’s opening game against Cardinal Hayes on Sept. 19. A scheduled scrimmage for Saturday against Sacred Heart from Yonkers was cancelled at the last minute.
“There’s a lot of things we want to work on,” Crane said, “so it’s definitely good we have a little more time to work on them.”