By Steve Svetovich
Holy Cross Crusaders second year football coach Dave Gatto is looking to build a winning attitude with his team.
And Holy Cross got off on the right foot with an opening day win, 14-12, Saturday, August 25, over Holy Redeemer.
It was the Crusaders first win since Oct. 10, 2015, snapping a 25-game losing streak.
A 43-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds of the contest sailed right for Holy Redeemer and the Crusaders were able to celebrate.
“This is great for the football program,” said Gatto. “The kids worked so hard in the weight room in the winter and summer. They deserve it. Our seniors were not going to let us lose this game.”
Holy Redeemer had a 12-0 lead at the half.
However, the Crusaders changed the momentum of the game in the third quarter when Nick Brooks recovered a fumble at the Holy Redeemer 40.
Ten plays later, Jeremy Fick scored a touchdown on a seven-yard run to put the Crusaders on the board. A pass attempt failed on the two-point conversion attempt.
The Crusaders, led by a strong running attack, drove down the field leading to Fick’s four-yard touchdown run. Holy Cross quarterback Jake Wiercinski scored on a two-point conversion run to put the Crusaders ahead, 14-12, with 11:10 left in the game.
With 3:24 left in the game, Holy Redeemer drove to the Holy Cross 26. Facing a fourth down and seven, the Royals went for the field goal in the closing seconds and the kick missed to the right.
“Our goal is to keep on getting better and better with each game,” Gatto said. “It is time for our program to start winning.”
Gatto’s assistant coaches at Holy Cross are: Vince Coviello, defensive coordinator, Joe Giurgio, offensive coordinator, Chris Coviello, line coach, Corey Coviello, defensive back and quarterback coach, and T.J. McDonnell, offensive and defensive line coach.
Son of the late Joe and Rita Gatto, coach Gatto played football for Jack Henzes at Dunmore where he graduated in 1980. All members of his staff, with the exception of McDonnell, are products of the Dunmore football program. Gatto also coached under Henzes from 1983 through 1989 at Dunmore. McDonnell is a product of the Carbondale Area football program.
Key members of this year’s Holy Cross football team include senior quarterback Jake Wiercinski, senior wide receiver-defensive back Nick Klein, senior guard-defensive tackle Anthony Scartelli, senior running back-nose guard Jon Kawalosky, senior outside linebacker-wide receiver Alex Hammer, senior wide receiver-defensive back Jake Gatto, senior guard-defensive end Matt Hearne, senior running back-wide receiver-defensive back Jeremy Fick, junior linebacker-fullback Nick Brooks, junior offensive tackle-defensive lineman Jack Murphy, sophomore offensive lineman-defensive tackle Robert Kane, sophomore linebacker-fullback Brandon Ludovici and sophomore tight end-defensive back Mason Kucharwa. Wiercinski is the kicker for extra points and field goals. Klein kicks off.
Wiercinski passed for 500 yards in part time action last season. “This is his second year as a quarterback for us,” said Gatto. “He is very good. He is 6-3 and 200 pounds. Jake has the potential and capabilities to be as good or better than any quarterback in this league.”
Coach Gatto is also very happy with the team’s running game. Fick ran for 91 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries in the win over Holy Redeemer. Wiercinski ran for 46 yards on 14 carries. Brooks added 21 yards on six carries.
“Our running game is good. Jeremy Fick had a great day against Holy Redeemer. We ran the ball very well. We think our running game will be a strength for us.”
Coach Gatto is also impressed with the receiving corps. “They look very good. A couple kids came out and really bolstered it. Our receivers can do a lot with the football after they catch it.”
Coach Gatto sees improvement in the team defense. “Our defense is quicker, no doubt. We have more speed on defense than this team had in a long time. Our defensive speed is making up for lack of size.”
Gatto could not say enough about his team following the opening day win. “The whole team was ecstatic. The players worked so hard with running and weight lifting. Our boys bought into what the coaches were teaching. This confirms that we are doing things right here.”
Gatto was an assistant coach for four years at Holy Cross under Josh Watters and Jeff Stevens. He took over as head football coach at Holy Cross in 2017.
Editor’s Update: Holy Cross won its second game of season Friday, 13-6, over Montrose. It is their first 2-0 start since their inaugural season as Holy Cross in 2007-08.
Quarterback Jake Wiercinski scored on a 3-yard run and running back Jeremy Fick scored on a 13-yard run to put the Crusaders ahead with 5:01 left in the game. Fick rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.