St. John’s depth has Pioneers dreaming big in 2017

St. John’s is never short on talent, in any sport.

The Pioneers are coming off another banner athletic year that again saw their teams make deep postseason runs across the board, so it seems almost silly to say that one particular team is loaded.

But, if that word has meaning left on the St. John’s campus in Shrewsbury, it most certainly applies to this year’s football team, which will vie for a state title in the newly aligned Division 3.

While most of the region is bemoaning the losses of generational talents, like Grafton’s Ifeatu Melifonwu, West Boylston’s Cole McCubrey and Leominster’s Noah Gray, the Pioneers are thrilled to welcome back nearly all of their big names from a season ago, starting with highly regarded athlete Hunter Gorgas.

Now a senior, Gorgas holds scholarship offers from Rhode Island, Monmouth and Wagner, but expect things to pick up for the 6-foot-5 defensive end, tight end and wide receiver. After attending summer camps at Boston College, Temple, Syracuse, UConn and others, Gorgas has drawn more Division I Football Bowl Subdivision interest, but has only one thing on his mind this season.

Joe Parello / For Worcester Sun

Hunter Gorgas, second from right, is a talented tight end and defensive end with bright prospects at the college level.

“We have the talent to make it to states,” Gorgas said. “The only goal that everybody on the team has, including myself, is to win states.”

That tunnel vision should serve St. John’s well.

More from the Sun Football Forecast:

  • Local football stars to watch on Saturdays and Sundays |  So, if you want to keep track of the Worcester County boys now playing at football’s highest levels, you’ve come to the right place. Here is a handy list of, and outlook for, every CMass native playing in the NFL and the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision.
  • Worcester’s Yiadom primed for big senior season at BC |  The Doherty legend’s name has come up a lot more in talks about the best players in the formidable Atlantic Coast Conference. But to senior DB Isaac Yiadom, that’s all just noise. “I don’t really listen to any of that, I just have to keep doing what I always do.”
  • Wachusett’s Tyler Catalina’s journey to an NFL roster spot |  “I’ve got to keep working and showing the coaches I can handle anything they throw at me,” Catalina said in mid-August. Those coaches, it seems, have seen something from the 325-pounder, who has earned a backup role on the Washington Redskins offensive line.

Worcester’s Yiadom primed for big senior season for Boston College football

From the moment he stepped foot on Boston College‘s campus, Isaac Yiadom has done his part for the Eagles.

That part may get significantly larger this season, however, as the former Doherty Memorial star has been getting talked up by national media, and perhaps more importantly, by fifth-year BC head coach Steve Addazio.

Ever since Addazio mentioned that Yiadom had the potential to be an all-conference player in an interview with ESPN, Yiadom’s name has come up a lot more in talks about the powerful Atlantic Coast Conference, and college football in general.

But to the Worcester native, that’s all just noise.

Wachusett alum Tyler Catalina’s journey toward an NFL roster spot

[UPDATE: According to reports and social media, Tyler Catalina has secured a spot on the Washington Redskins’ initial 53-man roster. This story was first published on Aug. 23.]

It seems unthinkable that after playing at two high schools, two colleges, going undrafted and switching positions, Tyler Catalina has a legitimate chance to earn an NFL roster spot.

But that’s just where the Wachusett Regional alum currently finds himself, playing guard for the Washington Redskins, and running with the backups during the team’s preseason games. Along the way, Catalina has been doubted at every step, and yet here he is, perhaps only a solid preseason performance away from being an NFL player.

“He definitely took the scenic route, that’s for sure,” Catalina’s brother Tony jokes.

Twitter / Tony Catalina

Tyler Catalina signs his contract as an undrafted rookie free agent with the Redskins.

“I’ve played in so many systems, on so many teams, that I think I can adjust to anything at this point,” Catalina said of his first few weeks in the NFL. “It just is what it is. I’ve got to keep working and showing the coaches I can handle anything they throw at me.”

Grafton’s Obi Melifonwu is ready for his NFL Draft moment

With the NFL Draft beginning Thursday night, Grafton native Obi Melifonwu sits just days away from realizing a lifetime goal.

Yet, while the 6-foot-4 safety has been working most of his life to be an NFL player, his name became familiar to casual fans less than two months ago.

Melifonwu’s arrival on the national scene came at the annual NFL Combine, where he stunned uninitiated fans and scouts by posting amazing workout numbers across the board, including a 4.40-second 40-yard dash, and Combine-best results in both the vertical jump (44 inches) and broad jump (11 feet, 9 inches).

“I’m not really amazed. I knew going [into the Combine] what I could do,” Melifonwu said with a chuckle. “I think other people were amazed by the numbers, especially people that weren’t familiar with me, but not anybody who has ever coached me or played with me.”

More Sun Sports: Are you ready for some lacrosse? Either way, read this

Last week’s most popular, April 9-15

Here are the most popular Worcester Sun articles April 9-15

Mariano: Have we learned anything from the closing of Our Lady of Mount Carmel? Are you ready for some lacrosse? Read this and you will be
Evan Corrigan: Diary of a visit to Worcester … England, that is
Editorial: Want to make Worcester a better place? Step up by stepping out
Sun Spots with Hitch [Vol. 152]: The continuing saga of the Midtown Mall

 

Are you ready for some lacrosse? Read this and you will be

While we have endured a late snowstorm and a windy, damp and generally uncooperative beginning to the season, it’s still spring in the Heart of the Commonwealth, and that means lacrosse is underway for several high school teams in and around Worcester.

As the sport continues to grow nationwide — from about 250,000 players in 2001 to more than 800,000 in 2015, per US Lacrosse — it is expanding at an exponential rate in Central Massachusetts, where every year there seems to be a new team, new youth program, or a long-suffering squad that breaks through to the tournament.

This year will likely be no different, as Auburn — a school traditionally with more than its fair share of standout athletes — begins its first year as a varsity program, and a number of other local teams gear up for what they hope to be successful seasons.

Teams to Watch

St. John’s

The Pioneers are always among the favorites in Central Mass., but this year’s St. John’s team could be on the verge of something truly special. This power program hasn’t been to the state championship game since 2009, but there’s some buzz that this year’s group, with its blend of experience and raw talent, could get back to the promised land.

Kevin Mensah looks to end whirlwind year with scholarship

Hopes remain high that a match with a top collegiate program — maybe nearby? — could be on the horizon for one of the area’s most talented football players as Signing Day nears. Joe Parello has the story.