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.
Last 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.