PJPII Catholic opens practice for first full season with perfect record
PJPII Catholic coach looks on as players, from left, Nick Tygielski, Jeffrey Winghart and Jason Craver work out as preseason neared for the team's first full season of varsity play. (The Huntsville Times/Robin Conn)
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Pope John Paul Catholic has one varsity high school football game on its resume as it enters the 2012 season, its first as a region qualifier in the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
The Falcons won that game 20-14 over Randolph a year ago. PJPII is a perfect 1-0 in its history, the only program that will take a 1.000 winning percentage into play as a member of Class 4A, Region 7.
The Falcons have no illusions, however, about the challenges this season will bring. But at least they have 1-0 on their resume, something coach Rick Daniel believes helped prepare his team for today’s opening of preseason practice.
“It built lots of excitement, not only for the players but for our school and community,’’ said Daniel, a Butler graduate and veteran of assistant coaching stops at Johnson and Grissom with a stint as head coach at Lee in his past.
“We played in the Catholic Bowl in the spring against Catholic-Montgomery and John Carroll Catholic, and we did fairly well, competed well. I feel like we have a chance to be competitive.’’
Senior wide receiver/defensive back Nick Tygielski agreed the win over Randolph provided a boost for the fledgling program, which has the one varsity game included in two years of junior varsity competition.
“It really did boost our team’s morale,’’ he said. “I think that got us ready for the season. I’m confident we can win some games.’’
Winning in Region 7 won’t be easy. The Falcons have shown they can beat one region foe – Randolph moves up to 4A from 3A this year – but the likes of North Jackson reside in the league.
So do two teams dropping down from 5A in Johnson and Madison County. The other region teams are Ardmore, Butler and DAR.
“The challenge is getting them to understand the concept of playing varsity football,’’ Daniel said. “It’ll be more intense and we’ll see a lot more (scheming) than we saw in JV. The speed of the game, the nuances, all of that is not the same playing varsity as it was in JV.’’
Catholic opens at Westminster, a program moving from 2A to 3A this year, Aug. 31 a week after playing at Priceville in a jamboree.
Tygielski said there will no doubt be “lots of butterflies’’ when the season opens and that the Falcons must overcome being “intimidated’’ early on when they “break the ice.’’
Catholic will open today with around 35 players, down from what Daniel hoped would be a little more than 40 before some players drifted away over the summer.
Daniel recalls 1984 when he was an assistant at Johnson and the Jaguars opened the season 1-2, had an open week then ran the table all the way to the state championship game.
But, he’d rather see his Falcons have some success in the jamboree scrimmage against Priceville and the opener with Westminster before wading into region play against Randolph at home and then Johnson on the road.
The Falcons will play home games at Discovery Middle School in Madison.
“We want to build some momentum,’’ Daniel said, “but I really don’t know how we’ll stack up against them in varsity games.’’