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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Speed and strength key for Notre Dame

See what’s at play this fall for high school football.

Ben Birnell
Sports writer
email / twitter
Posted 9/9/22

Notre Dame football coach Patrick Fraccola Sr. had one word to describe the speed of players on the team this fall. “I’m flabbergasted,” said Fraccola ...

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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Speed and strength key for Notre Dame

See what’s at play this fall for high school football.

Posted

UTICA — Notre Dame football coach Patrick Fraccola Sr. had one word to describe the speed of players on the team this fall.

“I’m flabbergasted,” said Fraccola, a longtime coach who is in his second season guiding the Jugglers. “I haven’t seen the speed we have on one team. But, only so many people can carry the ball.”

Indeed, there had been many tough decisions for Fraccola and his staff about a week before the team’s opening game against Beaver River. In addition to the speed, Fraccola said there is also noticeable physical strength. 

“We have a lot of positions that people are competing for because they’re so talented,” Fraccola said.

Those decisions include at quarterback and running back with the graduation of Chris Kelly and the transfer of Magic Johnson. 

Fraccola’s offense is a “ground-and-pound” style – it has been called “boring” at times, he said – and the team includes seven seniors which helps create a good foundation for a team that has had its share of struggles in recent seasons. Running back options include junior Jazier Brown, senior Pio Nguyen and William “Ace” Watkins. 

About nine of the Jugglers’ athletes – Brown, senior receiver Devin Hamacher, senior fullback and linebacker Vonnie Magnussen among them – have made the transition from other sports such as basketball and baseball. They bring some intrigue as they get acclimated to football. 

“We have a lot of gifted athletes because they play a lot of sports. But, can we turn all them in football players at the same time?” Fraccola said. “I would hate to have all these athletes and then it is possible you don’t have a good year because they didn’t jell together as football players. They’re learning.”

The Jugglers entered last fall without a win since 2018 and the team technically had three wins in 2021. However, the team was forced to forfeit all three due to a violation involving an ineligible player.

“They’re motivated in other ways. That is not affecting them. They left that behind them a long time ago, honestly,” Fraccola said. “It is not a factor.”

The Jugglers have “a younger” line, but players are also bigger and stronger compared to last year, Fraccola said. One standout is sophomore Charles Brittingham, who checks in at 6 feet tall and 300 pounds. Brittingham, who is quick on his feet, has attended various football camps on the east coast, Fraccola said. 

Magnussen (6-feet, 225 pounds) is expected to be key at linebacker, Fraccola said. 

“We don’t want to be overconfident. They acknowledge that it can be a problem being overconfident,” Fraccola said. “I want them to feel confident and know that it is a good thing. It is how you harness it.”

Due to teams shifting from Class D, the Jugglers have three opponents in common in 2022 from last year’s schedule (Bishop Ludden, Herkimer and Cato-Meridian).

Fraccola has experience with all of Notre Dame’s opponents having been a part of the coaching staff at Frankfort-Schuyler for more than a decade. 

“Class D being small schools, everything is a cycle. So, you’ll have some bad years. Just because of the population and underclassmen. I think a lot of the teams in Class D have gone through that cycle and I think they’re all on the upswing this year. I think the competition is going to be (strong) across the board,” Fraccola said. “We have our work cut out for us.” 

Notre Dame players to watch

Sr. WR Devin Hamacher, Sr. FB/LB Vonnie Magnussen, Sr. SS Luke Williams, Sr. RB/LB Pio Nguyen, Jr. RB Josh Fluty, So. OL/DL Charles Brittingham, Jr. RB Jazier Brown, JR. QB/RB William “Ace” Watkins, Jr. QB/LB Aiden Grimaldi-Vance, Tre Kaiser.

Notre Dame’s notable losses

QB/DB Chris Kelly, RB Magic Johnson (transferred), WR Jaden Massey, OL/DL Luis Ortiz.

 

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