St. Charles: Cardinals learned lessons during challenging season

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
St. Charles senior wide receiver Isaiah Yarngo sheds a tackle attempt against Hartley on Sept. 18. Playing a shortened schedule because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Cardinals finished 2-5 overall and 0-3 in the CCL.
Senior quarterback Carter Bryant was second-team all-district and first-team all-league for St. Charles. He also played linebacker.

The St. Charles football program made the most of a difficult situation.

Because of COVID-19 coronavirus protocols, the Cardinals started practicing in pods of nine players and one coach before having their season called off Aug. 17. The school's decision was reversed and practices resumed three days later, but St. Charles didn't kick off the season until Sept. 18.

St. Charles lost three league games and then, as the 23rd seed, fell at 10th-seeded Uniontown Lake 37-7 on Oct. 9 in the first round of the Division II, Region 7 playoffs. The Cardinals then rebounded to win two of their final three contests to finish 2-5 overall and 0-3 in the CCL.

“It was definitely a challenging and interesting season,” third-year coach Deke Hocker said. “Under the circumstances, they did what they needed to do and ended up winning two of our final three games.”

After the loss to Lake, the Cardinals defeated Marion Harding 17-12 on Oct. 16 and Franklin Heights 20-18 on Oct. 26 before losing to Licking Heights 31-28 on Oct. 30.

“I feel like it was a great experience,” running back/linebacker Alex Herzberg said. “It was my senior season, and it was rough because of COVID. Despite that, it was a great learning experience and I had a great time playing with my teammates in my last season.

“I feel like this experience was about taking everything day by day and dealing with all of the adversity that came our way. We had the season canceled completely at one time, and we fought to get it back. It all came down to perseverance and hard work.”

Junior running Fred Nimely was injured in the first half against Lake. Herzberg, who was named special mention all-district and first-team all-league, took over the spot and finished the season with 478 yards rushing and six touchdowns.

“We learned a lot about the character of our players,” Hocker said. “Under the circumstances, they did what they needed to do.

“They came in and worked and did everything we asked of them. We took things one day at a time and that’s how we approached it. I learned from them as well.”

Other top seniors included Nicholas Bastaja (K/P; second-team all-league), Carter Bryant (QB/LB; second-team all-district, first-team all-league) and John Protz (WR/DB; second-team all-league).

“(The seniors) were committed to it, and they did whatever they could do to have a season,” Hocker said. “They were enjoyable to be around. Through injuries and other things, they showed a lot of character and leadership.”

Junior Doogie James (WR/DB) was first-team all-league, and two-way linemen J.D. Epler (junior) and Ryan Carretta (sophomore) were second-team all-league.

Other key performers expected back are juniors Nick Bennison (DL), Carson Butcher (OL/DL), Denim Craig (LB), Solomon Lysa (DL) and Evan Somos (OL/DL) and sophomores Giovanni Delfino (DB) and Pete DeSocio (DB).

‘You could see that we were getting better each practice and each game,” Hocker said. “We went from playing a good half to three good quarters to a full four quarters. We started eliminating mistakes.

“We tried to take things one day at a time and get as much time in working to get better. We didn’t know what was going to happen the next day, and we weren’t able to take anything for granted. I knew our kids had great character, and they showed that.”

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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Record: 2-5 overall

CCL standings: DeSales (4-1), Hartley (3-2), Watterson (2-3), St. Charles (0-3)

Seniors lost: Nicholas Bastaja, Carter Bryant, George Cottrill, Reid Dewez, Yohanes Getahun, Kian Haghnazari, Alex Herzberg, Erik Lang, Henry Mauntel, Luele Mesfin, Sam Nori, Thomas O’Reilly, Liam Pratt, John Protz, Nick Putz, Collin Sattler, Grant Spalding and Isaiah Yarngo

Key returnees: Nick Bennison, Ryan Carretta, Denim Craig, Giovanni Delfino, Pete DeSocio, J.D. Epler, Doogie James, Solomon Lisath and Fred Nimely

Postseason: Lost to Uniontown Lake 37-7 in first round of Division II, Region 7 playoffs