East/South Xtra: At Serra, the numbers just don't add up

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Second-year coach Tony St. Angelo's response when asked what sort of expectations he had for his Serra Catholic Eagles was a bit, well, unexpected.

"We're not quite sure," he said. "We'll find out after we play Springdale, and then we'll get a read after that first game."

While most programs are working on depth charts and figuring out backups for starters, St. Angelo and his staff are just trying to make sure there are enough players for the 11 positions that must be filled on the offensive and defensive sides of a football team.

That's the dilemma the Serra coaching staff faces this season with just 24 players suiting up for practices that began Aug. 11.

"I have no clue why we don't have more players out for the team," St. Angelo said. "We had 28 out last year, and 12 of them were ninth-graders. But six of them decided not to play this year."

There also is the problem that develops when a student begins his high school education at Serra, and he has never been associated with football prior to stepping onto the school's campus in Mc-Keesport.

"We've had some of that, but there also are some who have played before they got here, and they understand the commitment we expect from our players," St. Angelo said.

While there may not be a quantity attached to the team, there certainly is quality and that starts with Zac Quatrone, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound senior who will be starting his second season at quarterback.

Last year, Quatrone achieved an impressive statistical double as he led the Serra rushing attack with 1,047 yards on 177 carries for an average of 5.9 yards per carry. He also was the team's leading scorer with 15 touchdowns and completed 76 of 163 pass attempts for 1,011 yards and five touchdowns.

Quatrone didn't play a lot of defense last year, but because there aren't too many bodies around the Serra locker room this fall, he'll be called upon to play when the Eagles don't have the ball, too. He'll see some time defensively at free safety and outside linebacker.

"He's pretty fast for a high school kid," he said. "He runs about 4.7 in the 40."

His top target, senior wide receiver Joe Satira (6-2, 165) also returns. Last year, Satira, a basketball standout as well, was the second-leading receiver in Class A with 47 receptions for 697 yards and five touchdowns.

"He has great ball skills and can get open," St. Angelo said. "He doesn't have blazing speed, but he always finds a way [to catch the ball]."

Serra does have some size on the line with two-way starters Taysaun Owens (5-10, 225, Sr.) and Jake Alfer (5-8, 190, Jr.) expected to lead the way. Senior lineman Rudy Fetzko (6-2, 190) also adds experience.

St. Angelo doesn't have to be reminded there are so few players on the team, but he told his players that Avella competed for several years with just 11 players, and the similarly nicknamed Eagles emerged from that difficulty with a winning record. And he believes that his team isn't that far away from returning once again to a roster in the 30s or higher.

"Serra won a WPIAL title in 2007, and they had 40 kids on the team in both 2008 and 2009," he said.

That year, the Eagles also advanced to the PIAA Class A championship game where they fell to Steelton-Highspire, 34-15.

"Why [team numbers] fell off is something that I can't understand, but we need to get it back to where it needs to be," St. Angelo said.

He said the Eagles are nowhere near the dire straits experienced by Geibel Catholic and Imani Christian, which both suspended their seasons a year ago because of a lack of numbers.

"It's not even close," he said. "Geibel had 12 to 15 kids. It's a lot better here, and I'm convinced our numbers will go up. Of the 24 kids we have, 12 have played and 12 are learning the game. But we got out and practiced, and all of these kids believe we can win."

Through it all, the Eagles have practiced, and the support has not wavered.

"The support has been unbelievable from the administration and the parents," St. Angelo said. "We've had 110 percent support."

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