Holy Cross Players in Learning Stages as Football Resumes

By Steve Svetovich

After a one year suspension due to lack of participation, Holy Cross head football coach Dave Gatto build together enough players to field a team this season.

“Nobody figured we would be playing this year, but we are,” said coach Gatto, now in his third year as Crusader head football coach after serving four years an an assistant.

There are 21 players on the Holy Cross roster this season, with only a five-game schedule due to COVID-19. 

“We are expecting a couple more players to join the team,” said Gatto. “Most of the guys who came out for this year’s team never played before. We have only two seniors, eight juniors, seven sophomores and four freshmen. We were trying to get to 19 or 20 players to field a team and we did. 

Holy Cross coach Dave Gatto

“It is going to be a learning experience.”

Coach Gatto is assisted by Vince Coviello, Chris Coviello, Joe Giorgio, Jake Gatto, T.J. McDonnell and Jim Talarico. 

“I have a great coaching staff.” 

Holy Cross lost its first game of the season, 56-7, to powerhouse Lackawanna Trail, Friday, Oct, 2, at Clinton Township.

Holy Cross scored late in the contest on a two yard touchdown burst by Wyett Walchak. A Logan Tierney 39-yard kickoff return set the Crusaders up at the Lackawanna Trail 35. A personal foul penalty aided the touchdown drive. Walchak booted the extra point.

The Crusaders will play another powerhouse, Old Forge, Saturday, October 10. Holy Cross will finish the short season against Montrose, Holy Redeemer and Susquehanna.

Junior Sean Herbert, who never played football before this season, is the team’s quarterback. “He’s a good athlete and a smart kid,” said Gatto. “He can move and he’s learning a lot. He never played before, so we are happy for him.”

Herbert worked out on conditioning and lifting with the football team last season before the decision was made to not field a team for 2019. 

He worked out on his own getting ready for 2020 and even served as a recruiter getting enough other students to suit up this season in order to field a team.

Other players on the team include senior lineman Robert Kane, senior fullback/linebacker Brandon Ludovici, junior wide receiver Zach Luciani, junior linemen Nick Cabets, Matt Tucker and Gurpreet Lahl, junior backs Gavyn Grems and Cameron Moczulski, sophomore tight end/middle linebacker Tierney, sophomore two-way tackle Andrew Naim, sophomore center Vince Tananna, sophomore guard Cody Schoonover, sophomore running backs Walczak and Fred Strein, sophomore tight end Bobby Staples, freshman tackle Chris Petrucci and freshmen receivers Kevin Whelen, Connor Art and Brandon Art.

Holy Cross continues to play its home games at Monsignor Crotti Field at Saint Anthony’s Playground, Dunmore.

Holy Cross has a male enrollment of 109 students.

“We re a very young team,” said coach Gatto. “Most of these kids never played football before, but they really wanted to play. They are willing to learn. 

“We were willing to throw them into the water. The attitude has been great so far. Our first two opponents are extremely tough, but we feel the team will be very competitive the final three games.

“We are a small school. Last season, a few of the seniors left. The perfect storm hit us and knocked us out, so we could not field a team. 

“Our principal, Ben Tolerico, was in favor of us fielding a team this year. We put a team of 21 together and expect a couple more. So we have something going for now and the future here at Holy Cross. And the enthusiasm and attitude has been great. They are learning week by week.” 

Holy Cross plays in the Lackawanna Football Conference Division IV.

Holy Cross Cancels Football Season

Holy Cross football team 2018 cropped

By Steve Svetovich

A drop in participation as summer practice emerged forced Holy Cross High School officials to suspend its varsity football program for the 2019 season.

Dave Gatto was scheduled to coach the team for his third season. 

Ben Tolerico, school principal, announced the decision Tuesday, July 30. 

He informed District 2 chairman Frank Majikes and Lackawanna Interscholastic Athletic Association president Ron Collins.

“Hopefully,” said coach Gatto, “we are teaching our kids more than just football. Problems will come up in your lifetime and you need to be prepared to deal with them. 

“We are not pouting and getting upset. We are addressing our problem and our kids are working hard to get more players out for the team. We will overcome this and hopefully be back on the field next year.”

There were 12 to 14 players, mostly underclassmen, who came out for the Crusaders team this season. Practice was to officially begin August 5 and a scrimmage was scheduled August 17 against Nanticoke. The season opener was scheduled Saturday, August 24, at home against Holy Redeemer.

At this time, Tolerico said, the school is eliminating the program. Tolerico coached the team from 2008 to 2010.

“In an effort to educate the whole child (mind, body and spirit), Holy Cross prides itself on having a rigorous academic program and robust extra curricular program for its students, ” Tolerico said in a statement.

“Each year we evaluate all the programs at Holy Cross to determine the best programs that will meet the needs and interests of our students. While we have one of the largest freshmen classes registered at Holy Cross, we currently have only 12 players signed up to play football, which is not enough to safely and competitively field a team.”

Tolerico added the football program will be re-evaluated for the 2020 season and beyond.

Teams scheduled to play Holy Cross this season will have their district playoff power rating calculated based on a nine-game schedule. There will be no forfeits.

Tolerico guided Holy Cross to its best season in 2010, which included an appearance in the  Eastern Conference Class 1A final. The Crusaders were 6-6 in 2010.

JVfootballLast season, Gatto, after a winless 2017 season, led the Crusaders to wins in its first two games over Holy Redeemer and Montrose. The team finished 2-8.

The Holy Cross football program began in 2007 when the team finished with a respectable 4-7 record. Holy Cross emerged in the 2007-2008 school year after the closings of Bishop Hannan and Bishop O’Hara. 

A total of 12 of the 22 players from last year’s team graduated.

Players who were slated to return this season were junior linebacker/fullback Brandon Ludovici, senior lineman Logan Bocker, junior lineman Robert Kane and senior wide receiver/defensive back/quarterback Andrew Weiner. 

Other key players were expected to be sophomore tailback Gavin Crems, a transfer from Dunmore, and 6-1, 190-pound defensive end Logan Tierney. 

Weiner was expected to be the quarterback. “He is very athletic, smart, with a strong arm,” said coach Gatto. “He would have been a strong leader.”

Ludovici and Crems were scheduled to be the running backs.

“Ludovici already had two good years with us. He is a tough player who works hard and loves football.

“Crems is a hard worker with great potential. He was probably the fastest kid on the team.”

Gatto and his staff also had great promise for freshman defensive end Tierney. “He is a big kid and was expected to make a huge impact.”

Coach Gatto’s assistant coaches were slated to be Vince Coviello, Chris Coviello, Joe Giorgio and T.J. McDonnell.

“We were looking forward to the challenges,” said coach Gatto, a University of Scranton business management graduate. “We will see what happens with the program next year.”

Gatto served seven years as an assistant coach at Dunmore under the legendary Jack Henzes who recently retired. He served five years as an assistant at Holy Cross before taking over the reign in 2017. 

Gatto Rebuilding Football Program in Second Year at Holy Cross

Dave GattoBy Steve Svetovich

Dave Gatto is in his second season as football coach at Holy Cross High School and is already making an impact.

The Crusaders won their first game of this season, 14-12, over Holy Redeemer, Saturday, August 25.

It was the Crusaders first win since Oct. 10, 2015, and snapped a 25-game losing streak.

“It was a big win,” said coach Gatto. “We are drastically better this season. It is time for our program to start winning. We believe in ourselves.”

Gatto took over as football coach at Holy Cross in 2017. He was previously an assistant football coach at Holy Cross for four years under Josh Watters and Jeff Stevens.

The hard-working Gatto graduated from Dunmore High School in 1980. He played four years of football under the legendary Jack Henzes. He was a fullback and strong safety in his senior year.

Gatto also played four years of baseball and two years of basketball at Dunmore. He was a catcher in baseball and a guard in basketball.

holy crossHe went on to earn a B.S. in Business Management from the University of Scranton in 1984 and worked as a supervisor in the transportation industry for 25 years.

Not only did Gatto learn plenty about football and life as a player under Jack Henzes for four years, but he continued to learn as an assistant coach under the Dunmore icon from 1983 through 1989.

“I learned a lot under Coach Henzes both during my time under him as a player and as an assistant coach. He is a great man and I wish him a speedy recovery from his present heart ailment. I am sure he wants to get back coaching and on the sidelines.

“But one of the things about Coach Henzes is that he teaches you even more about life than about football.”

Gatto is married to the former Lisa Monahan. The couple has three children: Alayna, 24, Eric, 22, and Jacob, 17. Jacob, a senior, plays football for his dad at Holy Cross.

Gatto said his team worked hard training and weight lifting in the off season.

“Our goal is to keep getting better and better as a team and to keep winning football games.”

JVfootballGatto, who currently works in the maintenance department at Holy Cross, said he is looking forward to the challenges his team faces this season.

“The kids on this team have been working extremely hard and it is starting to pay off.”

Gatto was a star football player in his four years playing under Henzes.

“That’s where I learned a lot about hard work, life and winning.

“I’m proud to be from Dunmore and looking forward to helping build a solid football program at Holy Cross. We have a great coaching staff, many from Dunmore, and I am enjoying my time here at Holy Cross. We want to keep winning now.

“And we will keep working hard.”