The first official practice day for the 2021 fall sports season was Monday.
Creighton Prep is looking to build off of a 2020 season that saw the Junior Jays make it to the quarterfinals and finish the season 6-3.
Here are notes and observations from the Junior Jays’ practice on Monday.
First things first: the energy level was high and it was an extremely efficient practice. No standing around and no wasted energy. Coaches, players and even athletic trainers knew where and what they should be doing at all times. The known? Coach Tim Johnk has his culture fully entrenched.
The depth on the offensive and defensive line is impressive. Prep made the decision to play young guys on the lines two years ago and it looks as though that move will pay dividends this year and next. The size alone of the line is impressive, led by 2023 lineman Sam Sledge (6-foot-4, 270 pounds). Sledge has moved from guard to tackle this season and will also play on the defensive line. The size and age (juniors) of the offensive line is something most teams in the state can hope for. Junior Cole Jarrett (6-3, 265) looks to be the left guard, junior Jacob Brandl (6-3, 270) will anchor the middle at center, junior Christian Lewis (5-11, 260) will be at right guard and opposite Sledge at tackle will be junior Rocco Marcelino (6-5, 245).
Expect Prep to be more of a ground-and-pound team this season, specifically due to the now veteran offensive line and the plethora of running backs. Junior CharMar Brown (5-11, 195) is the perfect combination of speed and power. Junior John Pargo (5-10, 177) brings the speed element to the backfield as evident by his sub 11-second 100-yard dash time on the track. Senior back Jack Stessman (5-9, 180) can get tough yards and emerged last season as a more-than-dependable back. There are others in the running back mix, but those three should receive plenty of work.
If you look at the back end of the defense, it looks like a 4×100 track team. Well, that’s because it is kind of. Pargo will play safety, senior Jonah Moore (6-1, 170) seems to have a hold on one of the corner positions and junior Cayden Russell, who looks much bigger than his listed 5-6, 160 pounds, will be the other corner. Seniors Sam Rodino (6-2, 175) and Michael Palmesano (6-1, 180) will see time at safety. The versatility with this group and the others at the position is strong. Nickel or dime packages as well as getting down hill and helping in the run game shouldn’t be a problem.
It is known that senior tight end Jack Kirkwood (6-4, 198) is the go-to receiving option in 2021. What I didn’t know and I think others outside of the program might be surprised with is his ability to play middle linebacker. He’s good there and should be a stable force in the middle of the defense.
Outside of Kirkwood at tight end, who steps into a significant receiver/tight end role is a bit of a question. Look for senior Thomas Lieden (5-11, 165) and junior Pierce Johnson (5-11, 165) in the slot to be significant threats in the passing game.
The offensive line is good and really good. So too is the defensive line, specifically junior defensive tackle Dale Green (6-0, 240). Green is powerful and can shed or even eat up would-be blockers in the middle of the line. The question is can the front hold up playing both ways specifically if an injury occurs. Sledge and Marcelino look as though they will play both ways in a rotation with the aforementioned offensive lineman.
Senior Jack Piernicky (6-3, 175) will be the quarterback, but don’t look for him to throw a ton. When he does can he be on target, how much of a threat in the run game can or does he even need to be? Piernicky is smart, has some good athleticism and knows the offense. Just how good he can be in the offense is a bit of an unknown. With the run game Prep has, he likely will need to just manage the game and not turn the ball over by taking too many chances.