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St. Francis Youngsters Boost Irish Football

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St. Francis Youngsters Boost Irish Football

BY DOUG BLACKBURN News Sports Writer

Dave McCamey spends his autumn afternoons at Riverside Park where he, as head coach, conducts practice sessions with the undefeated and third-ranked St. Thomas High football team.

To understand how St. Thomas has come to be a Class D football powerhouse in the past three years that McCarney has been with the Irish, one should visit the coach during the day as he is in charge of a recess period for first graders at St. Francis Elementary School.

The 30 or more youngsters are not running about wildly, jumping on top of one.another, and constantly scraping their knees as six-year-olds often do during free time.

Instead, with McCarney leading them by instructions and by a whistle around his neck, recess becomes a football practice. The youths are divided into groups of five, first throwing a perforated, bicentennially-colored plastic football around and then competing against one another gleefully in a drill that calls for running around objects with the ball.

“Get a handoff, get a handoff, the next guy get ready for that relay now," shouts McCarney as the kids run and scream with delight.

“A lot of the kids are geared around football.” explains McCarney. “I have the sons of several Michigan coaches in my classes, and they really like this kind of activity. At noontime, we have good football games.

“This year I have four starters on my St. Thomas team from St. Francis; Paul Sherzer, Phil Dascola. George Creswell and Dave O'Brien. I guess, between St. Francis and St. Thomas, we're like a small town. It's the same families all the time. I have the brothers of guys on the football team in my grade school classes.

"I guess you could say we're training them young. It’s a big advantage for the kids to stay with one school system all the way through. The kids here at St. Francis are really interested in St. Thomas football and like to do the drills. Besides, I haven’t been able to think about anything else but football all fall.”

This small-scale farm system always has been a part of the St. Thomas tradition. When one adds this to McCarney’s thorough involvement as a coach from the time he starts recess for the first graders until long after the sun has set for the day, the Irish recent success becomes more, easily understood.

If this year's St. Thomas team is to go undefeated, though, and make it into the playoffs for a state championship, the Irish will have to continue their wining ways this Saturday night at Hollway Field against Britton-Macon.

Last year. St. Thomas defeated Britton, 12-0, in a contest that decided the Tri-County Conference title. This season, however, St. Thomas is no longer in the conference.

Britton comes into this match with a 2-2 record, having suffered two close losses to Northwood and Whitmore Lake and having won big against Whiteford and Sand Creek. Britton's strength is its defense, which hasn’t given up more than 13 points in a game all season.

“They practically use an eight man line," says McCarney, “When we throw it’ll have to be real quick.”

Last week was the first time in three games that St. Thomas did not give up a touchdown on a kickoff return, which is the only way the team has been scored on all year. Even more important, though, last week was also the first time in three weeks that the Irish have not lost an important starter to injuries.

"And that,” says McCarney, “is the big news of the whole week except that now the flu bug is getting our guys and keeping us from going all out in practice.

“But we’ll be ready Saturday."