- Tom Luginbill, ESPN Staff Writer
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While this is not considered to be a huge rivalry in upstate New York, it appears that everyone who lines up against Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) brings their A-game as they are trying to knock the big dog off the mountain. Since head coach Bobby Casamento arrived at CBA seven years ago, he has only lost to Corcoran one time, and that was in his first year. Obviously, Corcoran has a lot to play for.
Both Corcoran and CBA come into this match-up undefeated at 3-0, with both teams gunning for the Class AA state title. Since 1999, CBA has posted a record of 78-8, won six section championships, appeared in the semifinals four times and captured one state championship in 2004. They are ranked No. 2 in the state behind Monroe Woodbury.
Corcoran has had similar success under head coach Tim Schmidt, winning the 2002 and 2003 section II Class AA championship and becoming the 2003 New York State Regional Champs. Since 1994, Corcoran has won four section championships and is looking at this game to establish themselves as the team to beat in Class AA.
Christian Brothers offense vs. Corcoran defense
Christian Brothers Academy features a wide-open, spread attack lead by ESPN 150 quarterback Mike Paulus. The 6-foot-5, 220 lbs. North Carolina commit has thrown for 892 yards and 8 touchdowns in just three games, and what few people know is that he isn't just a pocket passer, he's a good athlete.
If you like the ball in the air, this is the offense you have been waiting for. The Brothers will be in a four-wide set as a base and will rarely employ a tight end. Needless to say, CBA throws to set up the run, and that running game will come from jack of all trades performer Jovan Miller.
Miller is the feature back in this offense and also starts on defense at safety. Miller will rotate at running back with multi-purpose WR/RB Leon Saddler. The wide receiving unit is experienced and fast and led by junior Marcus Sales, who leads the team with 11 catches on the season. Sales is a rising junior who will likely be one of the most recruited kids in New York in the 2008 class.
Receivers Stephan Pride and Nick Trasolini round out the group. Trasolini has been the surprise performer in the group as a running back/wide receiver.
The offensive line is unheralded, but steady and does an excellent job of protecting Paulus. Anytime a team features a quarterback of his caliber, they will have a leg up against any opponent if the match-up is fairly even across the board.
This offense makes a lot of adjustments on the move and relies on the intelligence of its players to overcome any lack of speed or athleticism they may have. So far, it has proven to work.
Corcoran comes into the game with an emphasis on great secondary play to try and slow down the high powered attack of CBA, and it will take a huge effort. The secondary's best friend is a pass rush, and both defensive ends -- Will Pringle and Darrell Smith -- are expected to come up big.
Right behind them at inside linebacker is Corcoran's best defensive stalwart, Ulysses Martin. He is their best tackler and the leader of this defense. The Cougars are a base 4-3 team with a read-and-react mentality, but that doesn't mean they won't mix things up and bring some pressure to try and disrupt the timing of the CBA offense given the offensive front for CBA only returns two starters in tackles Guy Blasi and Matt Patulski.
The secondary is athletic and matches up well with CBA's receivers. The Cougars will utilize a six man rotation with Jeff Roberts, Jaquawn Holloway, Rashad Burns and Keyarey Smith rotating at cornerback. Smith will also start at strong safety and split time with Dashawn Keith, who is fresh off a summer boot camp regiment in which he participated in basic combat training in Fort Knox, Ky.
Expect the Corcoran defensive game plan to mix things up in the secondary and give Paulus a ton of different looks to get him out of rhythm and confuse the senior signal caller.
Corcoran offense vs. Christian Brothers defense
Schmidt's offensive philosophy is drastically different than CBA's; they will try and grind it out on the ground and keep CBA;s offense on the sideline. They are an I-Formation team with twin wide receivers and a powerful inside running game, bolstered by a tandem of running backs in fullback Ulysses Martin and tailback Fuquan Borum, both of whom are 215 pounds and a load to handle between the tackles.
The offensive line is experienced and has good leadership with center Nate Burgess and right tackle Jacks Glen. If this offense needs a tough two yards, they are going to run right behind Glen.
Quarterback Darin Hickson won't be stuck just handing the ball off all night, and at times you will see the Cougars offense change things up with a four-wide set featuring big-play wide receiver Darnell Sapps, who Schmidt refers to as his version of Terrell Owens in terms of height and strength. If they need a big play, expect them to toss it up to him on deep routes and take a chance.
Hickson has yet to throw an interception on the year and has thrown for 541 yards and 8 touchdowns. He has improved dramatically in terms of decision making, and Schmidt feels much more comfortable with him as their leader than he did when they started the season.
The CBA defense is young and still improving each and every week, but they only return two starters from 2005 in safeties Leon Saddler and Jovan Miller. They too are a 4-3 base team but will also flip over to a 3-4 look and insert another linebacker in the game to try and confuse the blocking schemes.
They are aggressive and Casamento will employ a lot of different looks and stunts in the front four.
As he put it this week, "If Saddler and Miller are making all our tackles, we are in trouble."
So, junior defensive end Steve Modliszewski, raw, but talented senior defensive tackle Terrell Allen and sophomore tackle Andy Phillips have to slow down the power run game for Corcoran and force the Cougars to throw the ball to beat them.
In the secondary, Miller moved from cornerback to safety this year, and new cornerback starters junior Dan Sisto and senior Mike Bulman will be counted on to just keep the ball in front of them and not give up any big plays to Darnell Sapps in the vertical passing game. Once again, the CBA defense counts on the intelligence of their players to overcome any athletic deficiencies. They are smart, and Casamento feels he can really do a lot of things with scheme that will give them an edge in a close game.
Christian Brothers Academy is a private school and Corcoran is an inner-city school with better overall athletes, yet CBA has had their number for quite some time now. However, if Corcoran is going to beat CBA, this is the year. With CBA's inexperience on defense and Corcoran's ability to run the ball and take time off the clock, they can win this game if they don't turn the ball over and win the time of possession.
As with most match-ups, that is easier said than done, and with Mike Paulus pulling the trigger and CBA's ability to score from anywhere on the field at any time, the question may be does Corcoran have enough firepower to hang with the Brothers for the entire four quarters.
Tom Luginbill is the national director of recruiting for Scouts, Inc. Tom is a college football and recruiting studio analyst for ESPNU.