By Jared Prenda
The close of the 2017 football season for the CUA Cardinals proved to be the opening of a new chapter in the program’s long history. The Cards had a .500 winning percentage on the year, going 5-5 overall and 3-4 in NEWMAC Conference play, which is their best record since 2013.
The team went out on top in its final game over Maine Maritime, winning 33-14. The team gave up the first score of the game to the Mariners, but scored 27 unanswered points and never looked back. Catholic was led by freshman QB Brady Berger, who went 22-of-37 passing for 279-yards and 3 touchdowns. Fellow rookie Chance LeGrand also had a big day for the Birds to cap off his breakout season with 65 yards on 13 rushes, 4 catches for 52 yards, and even went 2-of-2 passing for 26-yards and a touchdown.
Four different players from the Catholic team were nominated to the NEWMAC All-Conference team for their performances this season. Seniors Andrew DiNardo, Luke Kern, and Pat Vidal were all nominated to the first-team, while classmate wide receiver Blake Gomez made the second-team. Fellow senior Nick Della Jacono was named to the All-Sportsmanship Team.
Kern, a safety from Stony Point, NY, was the leading tackler in the NEWMAC with 103 tackles on the year. He was the only player to break 90 tackles, and his 6.3 stops per game ranked him 20th in the country. His 5 forced fumbles on the year also ranked Kern second in the nation.
Vidal was the star of the Cardinal’s defense, being named both to the D3football.com Team of the Week and NEWMAC Defensive Athlete of the Week twice each. His 82 tackles on the year ranked him 4th in the conference, and his 15 tackles for loss also ranked him 4th. He also recorded 4 sacks, two forced fumbles, recovered two, and broke up a pair of passes to end his prolific career at Catholic. This stellar play as the anchor of the CUA Defensive line garnered the senior workouts with both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins this past summer.
DiNardo was especially potent as a punter for the Birds. He was the leading punter in the nation with a 46.5-yard average, and a long of 65-yards. 16 of his punts pinned opponents within their own 20-yard line and on September 12th he was named the D3football.com Punter of the Week. Gomez proved to be one of the league’s most threatening receivers this year, finishing 2nd in the NEWMAC and lead the team with 5 touchdown receptions. He also racked up 360 yards on the season on 25 grabs, with his 36-yards per game ranking 6th in the conference.
Gutelius came to the team with the reputation as a defensive expert, and his players delivered on that reputation. Senior linebacker Anthony Santo, Kern, and Della Jacono were the top 3 players in the league in tackles per game. As a team, the Cards led the NEWMAC in tackles with 857 total, and their 25 forced turnovers ranked them 2nd.
The team also showed signs of growth on the offensive side of the ball. Sophomore QB Alejandro Ros took most of the snaps this year following a preseason injury to senior Jorge Pola. The Miami native ranked 3rd in the conference for both passing yards per game with 158.9 and touchdowns with 11. The backfield shows signs of improvement with the majority of carries falling on rookies LeGrand, Trey Carson, and Pedro Garcia, who all had promising freshman seasons.
The team will lose many key players, but the promising youth looks to keep the Birds flying high next season.