Metro Conference football titles seem to come in threes. St. John's won three consecutive titles from '75-77 and Carroll won three titles from 78-80. For the past three years, at least three teams in the Metro Conference have started the year with 3-0 marks. After three so-so seasons, including a 3-7 record (0-6 in the conference) in 1982, St. John's is off to a 3-0 start and the Cadets are smiling again.
"I don't know what happened to St. John's. You know things run in cycles and we needed to spruce things up a little," Coach Doonie Waldron said. "Losing all those games motivates you. We were losing but we were always competitive. We just felt our program needed some improvement in a few areas and we think we've done that. Our weight room and our strength program were two areas we were concerned with."
The tough conditioning program has produced benefits on the field. Although the Cadets aren't setting any offensive records (they've scored only 24 points), Waldron has been pleased with his team's early showing.
"We've been in some tough games and our offense still needs to be smoother," Waldron said. "We're just hoping to improve each week and stay positive."
The Cadets defeated Wilson, 7-0, and Mount St. Joseph's, 10-5, before struggling past Coolidge, 7-0, last week. St. John's had several scoring chances against Coolidge but each time failed to come up with the big plays. But as they have done in their first three contests, the Cadets have come up with good defensive plays.
"We're a lot bigger and stronger than last year," said running back/ roverback Dennis Shea. "We want to be a fourth-quarter team this year. Our offense is a lot better because we've stopped the gimmick plays and gone back to what works for us."
Jimmy Rossi agreed. "I know we're a better team because our conditioning program was much harder this season. We've been in some tough games but they can only help us."
The Cadets were aggressive in the final period, stopping Coolidge three times deep in their territory. On one drive, three St. John's defenders converged on a Coolidge receiver and stopped him inches short of a first down on a fourth-down play. On another drive, Cadet defenders knocked down two passes and forced the Colt quarterback into three bad throws. On the final Coolidge drive, Danny Puch made a diving interception of a deflected pass on a fourth down play.
"The kids have made great strides defensively," Waldron said. "They play both ways but Rossi, Shea, Robert Daly (center/nose guard), Darryl Heggans (running back/defensive back) and Dan Barbattini and Mike Sheid (offensive tackle/defensive tackle) have to play well for us to do well."
St. John's plays Howard (which recently ended an 10-game losing streak) and Good Counsel (0-3) the next two weeks before facing conference favorite Carroll. By then, both Carroll and St. John's could be 5-0.
"That would be nice if we went into that game undefeated," Waldron said. "But we aren't blowing anyone out and have to work hard week to week. But the important thing is, we're positive again."