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Football Camp, Day 2: Teaching Tackling and Making Plays

By Joe Ginley '12 , 08/06/20, 10:15PM EDT


Alec LaSpina could not be more excited for the 2020 season.

Early August is typically hotter than all kinds of things. The old analogies haven't held true the past few days, as Mother Nature has blessed the Wildcats with perfect weather to open fall camp.

The Saint Ignatius football program hit Wasmer Field again on Thursday for Day 2 of doubles to prepare for whatever fall holds. 

Plenty of promise continues to be shown by this group of Wildcats. The team will continue to refine itself as camp moves along. Here are observations from Day 2: 

Hips don't lie

Sans shells, the Wildcats learned the proper tackling technique during the first session on Thursday. Two masters of the game taught the Wildcats – Chuck Kyle '69 and Ryan Franzinger '02.

The Saint Ignatius defenders were shown how to lead with a particular shoulder, how to wrap up, and how to choose an angle. All essential elements of bringing down the ballcarrier.

To nail the technique, the ol' tackling donut was brought out. A favorite tool of coaches everywhere, it's often called a wheel or a tube, but donut sounds better (and reminds the mind of an impossibly tasty Becker's donut). 

As 38-year head coaching veteran Chuck Kyle told some young defenders, "Hips don't lie, but your mind does." Turns out Shakira was right all along. 

"Lenny" looking good so far 

The defensive line will be relatively inexperienced this season, beyond Bennett Adler. The St. Chris grad will be the key to the Wildcats' line as a hard-charging end. 

But the team has two other hard-working rising seniors who will look to contribute: Luca LaSpina and John Lenhard. Both men are looking good in camp so far.

Lenhard is developing into a strong candidate to rotate in at nose tackle. The 5'11", 215-pounder is not giant inside, but he makes up for the relative lack of size with grit and heart. His teammates have taken notice, affectionately dubbing him, "Lenny." 

"Lenny has been working hard since the offseason," says Defensive Line Coach Dave Cicetti. "He put a lot of time in the weight room and built himself up. He's had a good camp so far and is working hard. He has good technique: he's shown a lot of improvement since last year."

Lenhard has also taken on a mentoring role to the younger guys, including junior Tommy Wasinski, aka "Wazz." Both guys wear #66 practice jerseys.

"As a unit, we want to apply pressure on the QB and get after the ball. It's important to teach the young guys how to play and how to lead by action, not by words," says Lenhard. "The young guys are all looking good, big tough, and aggressive in the middle."

Like Christmas morning

In terms of excitement, few are more pumped for fall camp than Alec LaSpina.

The rising senior wideout is like a kid who just found his presents from Santa under the tree. 

"It feels like Christmas for me," says LaSpina. "I'm excited to see how we compete against each other. In the weight room, we compete and it's like a house divided. At camp, it's so competitive every day. It's exciting to see the work in the weight room come together." 

But LaSpina is not getting ahead of himself, focusing on the first week of the season. 

"I'm excited to play whoever the first opponent will be," says the East sider. "I want to take it one game at a time, focus on the task at hand. We want to be the best team in the state and region, be the best we can possibly be. It's going to be a good season."

LaSpina did not have too many stats last year, but he did have one crucial catch – the 63-yard touchdown pass vs. Archbishop Hoban that began the Wildcats' dramatic, record-setting comeback on the road.

Look for LaSpina to be a vacuum at wide receiver this year.  

Mangan Season

Fall has nearly arrived, which means it's Declan Mangan's time to shine.

The rising senior has starred as a bonafide star at kicker for the Wildcats the past few seasons, particularly as a junior in 2019. Mangan showed off his cannon of a leg with field goals of 47, 48, 49, 53 and 56 yards. His 53- and 56-yarders stand as the second and fifth longest field goals in school history. And beyond his field goals, Mangan notched 34.6 yards per punt. The Westlake native boomed 34-of-52 kickoffs for touchbacks, as well.

For his efforts, Mangan earned All-Ohio honors in 2019, as well as 2020 MaxPreps Preseason All-Ohio. So what's next for his encore? 

"I try not to set too many expectations," says Mangan. "I just want to punt and kick and do everything well and see what happens. I want to play it by ear."

That's not to say that Declan has had a quiet offseason. Far from it. Despite the stereotype that kickers don't do much, Mangan has been active in the weight room and in getting better. 

"We've been getting it done in the weight room and conditioning," says the St. Bernadette grad. "I do the same routine as the wide receivers. I work to get stronger, focusing on explosiveness, leg speed and strength, and the upper body to look good."

Following the graduation of Rory McConville, Mangan will be joined by rising junior Zeb Eldridge. The lefty punter/kicker showcased a nice leg with the JV team last year. The two get along well in practice, as Mangan has taken the youngster under his wing, calling him Zebediah.

"The future of the Saint Ignatius special teams is in good hands," Mangan says.

Making plays 

Plenty of nice plays were made during practice on Thursday. A Sean Ward catch on a post route stands out ... Patrick Kotek hauled in a good ball today. Alec LaSpina praised his hands in practice ... Aidan Conway slotted in as a middle linebacker last year but has also played outside linebacker in practice, too, looking good doing so ... Nick Lamirand has had glue hands for much of the opening two days, with some nice snags ... Jaxon French and Joe Pfaff tossed a number of beautiful throws in practice ... Max Palinski has looked great in practice. The sophomore running back ran a great route and caught a deep ball with the scout team.