Of the many key losses from St. Joseph’s state championship team, none would seem harder to replace than Jared Mallozzi. A year removed from a 100-catch season, Mallozzi finished with 74 receptions last season, 19 of which went for touchdowns.
Mallozzi’s catch total dropped by 25 percent for two reasons: the number of double teams he constantly faced and the unexpected depth the Cadets had at that position.
It is the numbers the team has at receiver that should make replacing Mallozzi much easier than would normally be the case. The next three most productive players return, and combined for 131 catches, 1,950 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Throw in a couple of emerging talents and, most importantly, an offense again led by quarterback David Summers, and that should ensure the Cadets will again have one of the state’s most potent offenses.
“Jared is one of the best or the best receiver at St. Joe’s ever,” said Phil Pasmeg, the leader of the returning group. “But we were pretty deep, especially last year when he got doubled up.”
Pasmeg finished with 51 catches for 856 yards and 12 touchdowns. In a wild 42-36 win over Ansonia for the Class S title, he had a pair of long scoring catches.
“He’s an emotional player,” St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia said. “He plays with a lot of passion. Our other guys will step up and feed off of it.”
Pasmeg sustained a very small fracture in his kneecap during a recent practice and Della Vecchia said his status for Saturday’s opener against New Canaan, one of the biggest games of the regular season, is uncertain.
Pasmeg helped spark a wild comeback win last year against Ridgefield with 14 catches for 187 yards and two scores. He will assume Mallozzi’s role as the go-to guy.
“This is his third year at that position so it’s not like anyone else has any experience playing it,” Della Vecchia said. “Or has as much game experience. That’s the hardest part.”
Will Diamantis and Jesse Bike were strong complementary players who will now be asked to increase their productivity. Both have the necessary skill sets.
“Will is a little bigger and a lot stronger than he was a year ago,” Della Vecchia said. “He had a great year as a sophomore for us. We’re expecting him to get better. I told him he could be a great receiver if he worked at it and he has been working like crazy this summer. And Jesse Bike, he’s a guy who was under the radar. He has fantastic hands and is a great competitor. He goes after the ball. He’s faster than most people think he is. He even surprised us with his times.”
The Cadets are confident two other players are primed to flourish. Brady Hutchinson and Darren Warren will allow Della Vecchia to employ four-receiver sets to open space.
There are two other key factors to the Cadets’ passing attack that have nothing to do with the receivers. Jaden Shirden is a 1,000-yard back who also can catch the ball out of the backfield.
And of course there is Summers, the Maryland commit who is coming off an outstanding debut. He threw for over 3,200 yards but, most impressively, had a 49-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
“David is obviously one of the better quarterbacks in the state,” Pasmeg said.” And then Jaden has been running like a grown man and he is starting to catch the ball too. If we can get that fifth option we should be in pretty good shape.”
Della Vecchia said the Cadets’ ball distribution came from a decision last season.
“When Jared was a junior he caught 100 passes and Phil about 60 that year,” Della Vecchia said. “Last year we made a conscious effort to be more balanced. That certainly helped those guys out a lot. They had a lot more opportunities. Now I’m not sure who you try to double. People tried to double Jared and it didn’t work, he still caught 80 passes. Those three guys coming back, Jaden running the ball and we have a couple guys going in where Jared was and they’re pretty good too.”
The St. Joseph receivers hope to set the tone Saturday afternoon.
“If we are all doing our jobs there should be no problems,” Pasmeg said.