Focus on the Finer Things: 2022 St. John Vianney High School Football Preview
Any coach taking over the St. John Vianney football program from now on will be looking to construct teams that resemble what the Lancers had from 2014 to 2017, when the program lost just one game in each of those four seasons and made it three NJSIAA sectional semifinals and one sectional championship game.
First-year head coach Jeff Papcun is no different in that regard, but as a coach who was on staff for part of that run, he knows what those teams had working for them beyond just the immense talent. Regardless of what talent walks into or away from St. John Vianney, Papcun wants to keep those intangibles constant now that he is in charge.
“We’re really trying to stay on top of them to do the little things,” Papcun said. “We have been really focused on staying disciplined with every detail, right down to the uniform – even at practice. That’s how you establish a culture of winning and we want our players to value the little things, because in my experience, those little things are what has won us and lost us games.”
To hit the ground running under their new head coach in 2022, St. John Vianney will be looking to bounce back from a 3-7 season in 2021 in which the Lancers dropped their final four games. Four of the seven losses came by a one-score margin and the other three were to Donovan Catholic, Wall and Seton Hall Prep.
“Going back to coach (Andy Carlstrom) and even before that, there has always been really good talent at St. John Vianney,” Papcun said. “What separated the 2017 team and the teams of that era was the team concept and how much those guys did the little things. I haven’t seen a team closer than that group was and that’s what we’re trying to get back to.”
This season, the Lancers will not face a schedule quite as challenging as the one that made them 3-7 a year ago, but they will have to open up against a perennial contender for the No. 1 ranking in the Shore Conference in Red Bank Catholic.
There are some losses to overcome – both to graduation and transfers – and the team will be somewhat lacking in starting experience, but Papcun is excited about the talent on hand and how those players are responding to the revamped culture he is trying to establish.
“I knew going in the team was going to look a little different this year, but to me, that’s a great opportunity for the kids we have and for us as coaches to establish the kind of culture and style we think works best,” Papcun said. “Even with some of the losses on both sides of the ball, we still have 18 seniors who have been on varsity for two or three years and have been on the field in games and in competition at practice.
St. John Vianney at a Glance
Projected Lineup (RS=Returning Starter)
Offense: Multiple Spread
Returning Starters: 4
QB: Mike Foley, Sr.; Aaron Van Trease, Sr.
RB: Christian Buchanan, Sr.; Luca Minardo, Jr.
WR: Kyle Verriest, Sr. RS
WR: Joey Marcello, Jr.
WR: Jack Farah, Sr.
WR: Kyle Pettus, Sr.
LT: Matt Defelice, Sr.
LG: Tim O’Dowd, Sr. RS
C: Zach Scully, Sr. RS
RG: Ryan Buchannan, Jr.
RT: Andrew Chemo, Sr. RS
Returning Starters: 3
DE: Eli Portales, Sr.
DT: Ryan Buchannan, Jr.; Matt Defelice, Sr.
DT: Andrew Chemo, Sr.; Tim O’Dowd, Sr.
DE: Myles Bird-Rice, Jr.
OLB: Mike Foley, Sr. RS
ILB: Christian Buchanan, Sr.
OLB: Thomas Cleary, Sr.
CB: Kyle Verriest, Sr. RS
CB: Nick Galamb, Sr.
SS: Jacak Farah, Sr. RS
FS: Aaron Can Trease, Sr.
K: Brendan Allen, So.
P: Mike McCormack, So.
Head Coach: Jeff Papcun, first season
Career Record: 0-0
Record Last Five Years:
Assistant Coaches: Dan Fierro (Off. Coordinator/WR/CB), Mike Alberque (QB/DB), Derek Depascale (Special Teams/WR/SS), Ed Hernandez (Strength and Conditioning/RB/LB), Ryan Waltz (QB/DE), Shannon Hoadley (OL/DL), Lou Liberator (Freshman/WR/DB), Tyler Lucas (Freshman/RB/LB), Andrew Pender (Freshman/OL/DL), Paul Cocozziello (Freshman/QB/DB), Gabby Tantillo (Athletic Trainer)
Player to Watch: Kyle Verriest, Sr., WR/CB
Verriest has been a reliable receiver since his freshman season at St. John Vianney and was the Lancers’ top pass-catcher a year ago with 426 yards on 28 receptions with four touchdown grabs. He is also a disruptive corner back on defense and with St. John Vianney leaning more toward a Wing-T look, Verriest will see his fair share of action working between the tackles, both as a blocker and a ball-carrier.
“Kyle is an unbelievable player and a stud athlete,” Papcun said. “He has been a good player for us for the last three years and this year, his maturity level is completely different. He has completely embraced being a senior leader, he is going 100 percent on every rep and it’s really setting the tone for us.”
Player Under the Radar: Christian Buchanan, Sr., RB/LB
Buchanan hasn’t had a ton of touches in the running game or snaps on the defensive end, but he has already made an impact at practice as a leader and established himself has a lead back on offense. The running game is set to revolve around Buchanan’s hard-nosed running style, and he will also bring that edge to the defensive side as a middle linebacker.
“Over the last few years, we have adapted that tailback-fullback hybrid as our main back and Christian Buchanan fits that role really well,” Papcun said. “He is a tough runner and he is one of several guys we have who falls into that category of a physical runner.”
Top Position Group: Wide Receivers
With Verriest serving as the template, St. John Vianney has a collection of versatile wide receivers who can throw a block, take a hit over the middle or catch a fly pattern. Junior Joey Marcello has caught the eye of the coaching staff in the early going, while Jack Farah and Kyle Pettus bring some additional senior know-how to the equation. Sophomore Nico Aquilone is also a name to watch over the course of this season and going forward for the Lancers.
“We have evolved into a Wing-T team out of the spread formation and one of the things we like about it is it allows our receivers to by physical,” Papcun said. “We have guys like Verriest who like running between the tackles, so that’s something we can do more of with this group in this offense.”
Newcomer to Watch: Ryan Buchanan, Jr., DT
The defensive line has a chance to be dynamic with Buchanan now set to be a starter from the jump following a sophomore year in which he got some valuable snaps. The junior has the size (six-foot, 245 pounds) to control the interior of the line while also possessing the athleticism to wreak havoc as a pass-rusher.
“From what we have seen in scrimmages, he is going to be a difference-maker,” Papcun said. “He is playing defensive tackle and chasing ball-carriers down to the five yard-line and bringing them down. That shows leadership and a guy who never gives up on a play.”
Big Shoes to Fill: Matt Defelice (Sr., RT/DT) and Mike Foley (Sr., QB/OLB)
St. John Vianney lost a trio of standout players to transfers, with quarterback Antonio Rosato, defensive end Dylan Seay and lineman Makel Davis all in different programs this season. Defelice and Foley are capable varsity players who have been in the trenches before, so while they will have to help make up for a lot of the lost skill and production, they are ready to handle it.
Foley is a physical quarterback who will keep the ball from time-to-time when St. John Vianney runs its option, while also returning to his outside linebacker spot on defense. Defelice, meanwhile, is moving into starting jobs on both lines where Davis was a significant presence over the past two seasons. Senior Aaron Can Trease is also in the running for time at quarterback in competition with Foley.
Rivalry Game: Sept. 9 at Holmdel
With St. John Vianney coming back to earth following its run as a Shore Conference juggernaut and Holmdel breaking out as a contender in Group III, there is potential for a really interesting rivalry between the crosstown schools. They have only met once since 2017 and St. John Vianney beat Holmdel, 24-7, in 2020, when the Hornets seemed to have a legitimate shot to upend the Lancers. St. John Vianney, of course, would like to keep this rivalry one-sided and return to its days as a dominant program.
Saturday, Aug. 27 vs. Red Bank Catholic, 7:30 p.m. at Ocean City High School
Saturday, Sept. 3 at Colts Neck, Noon
Friday, Sept. 9 at Holmdel, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 16 vs. Monmouth, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 23 vs. Manasquan, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 1 at Marlboro, Noon
Friday, Oct. 7 vs. Raritan, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 21 vs. Point Boro, 7 p.m.