Charlotte Catholic running backs Jaret Anderson, Clay Lozzi, Keenan MacQuarrie, Cole Perry, Jake Priester and Nick Rizzieri may not be well known yet, but their opportunity is coming.
All six backs will play key roles in the Charlotte Catholic “Wing-T” rushing attack now that All-American Elijah Hood and his Mecklenburg County-record 8,981 career yards – fourth in state history – and 147 touchdowns (third in state history) are now in the UNC Chapel Hill backfield.
First-year head coach Mike Brodowicz, a Charlotte Catholic assistant for 12 years, will take over for legendary Cougars football coach Jim Oddo, who manned the sidelines for the last 40 seasons.
Brodowicz said he knows how the running backs feel but is embracing a new era in Charlotte Catholic football.
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“You don’t just replace coaches like Oddo or players like Elijah Hood, and we all know that,” Brodowicz said. “I’m not Coach Oddo and our backs know they’re not Elijah Hood. But we’re all looking forward to making our own names and our own memories.”
Each of the six running backs brings something different to the table, according to Brodowicz, which might make his Cougars offense even harder defend.
Lozzi, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior, is the lone returning starter of the group and has the size, speed and blocking ability to make even bigger contributions this season.
Rizzieri (6-foot-2, 210 pounds), a senior, also saw time last year when Hood went to sideline, and showed flashes of talent late in several games.
Anderson (5-foot-10, 175 pounds), a junior, rushed for more than 1,700 yards and scored 18 touchdowns for the junior varsity team as a sophomore.
Senior Priester (5-foot-9, 150 pounds) brings 4.55 40-yard-dash speed to the backfield but took last season off to focus on lacrosse. He’s an all-state lacrosse player committed to Mercer.
MacQuarrie and Perry, both seniors, also provide will quickness and toughness to the rotation that has been the heart of the Charlotte Catholic running game for decades.
The Catholic backs are confident they can get the job done.
“Elijah Hood is one of the best high school players to ever play in the state of North Carolina, if not in the entire country,” Priester said. “But playing Charlotte Catholic football is a once-in-a-lifetime type experience. We all want to make the most of it.
“Now opposing teams can’t focus on one guy, they have to worry about and stop all of us.”
The Charlotte Catholic running game also will get a big boost from senior quarterback Ryan Miller, who at 6-feet-2 and 205 pounds can be hard to stop when he uses his feet. Brodowicz said he plans to employ a two-quarterback system, with junior John Walton also getting touches.
The offense will benefit from an experienced line that includes center Matt Kowalewski (committed to Elon), guards Nick Bruno (North Carolina baseball), Chris Bruno and Matt Dean, and tackles Chris Fiato and Stephen Gileta. Tight ends Jack Fassler, Jack Fishbaugh and Mike Wilson also should figure heavily in the blocking scheme.
The standard of success is high at Catholic, which has won two state titles, in 2004 and 2005, and played in five state-championship and eight regional-final games in the past decade, going 128-21.
The Cougars were 12-3 last season, including 7-0 in league play to win the SoMeck 8 conference.
With a tough schedule that includes Charlotte Country Day, Mallard Creek and Rock Hill Northwestern, the 2014 Charlotte Catholic team will be tested early; but the players say they are looking forward to it.
“It’s an awesome thing just be a part of the Charlotte Catholic football program,” Perry said. “Just to be mentioned maybe with some of the great backs that have come before us is an honor. We know all about the great backs that have been here, like Elijah. Now it’s our turn, and we feel like we can come in together, get the yards and get the job done.”