Courtesy of The Trend Community Newsmagazine
While most coaches dread to begin the season in the hotseat, Holy Cross coach Tom Maderia insists that he won't wake up in a cold sweat worrying about being the preseason No. 1 team in South Jersey.
Holy Cross gets the nod as the Trend's preseason No. 1 team based on an experienced unit that returns from last year's 9-2 team that won the Burlington County Liberty Division and advanced to the Parochial 4 finals before losing to powerful Bergen Catholic, 48-28.
The Lancers have the ability to strike quickly on the ground or in the air. Holy Cross has size, speed and savvy. Maderia, who enters his sixth season at Holy Cross with a 37-14 record, has quickly established himself as one of the top coaches in South Jersey.
His first season, the Lancers went 11-0, winning the South Jersey Parochial A championship. His teams have qualified for the playoffs three of the five years and have won three Burlco Liberty Division titles.
Maderia won't rant and rave if his team is ranked No. 1 in the preseason or if the Lancers aren't No. 1 at season's end.
"I really don't worry about rankings," he said. "The only thing that matters is if you earn something and the only thing I can control is the conference and Parochial titles. If we are picked No. 1 in the preseason, it's an honor, but it doesn't mean anything. What matters is what you do on the field."
On a team that strikes so much fear, it's ironic that the two biggest weapons stand just 5-foot-9. They are running back Avon Cobourne and wide receiver Mike Osborne.
Cobourne rushed for 1,337 yards on 163 carries [8.2 average] and scored 32 touchdowns, including 27 on the ground. How difficult is it competing in the Liberty? Cobourne was only selected second-team all-conference. This year if he stays healthy, he could be a first-team all-state selection.
Then again, Osborne already has earned that honor. Last year he set single season South Jersey records for receptions , and receptions yards [1,381].
Osborne has 103 career receptions and is well within reach of shattering the career South Jersey reception mark of 132 set by Cherry Hill East's Scott Peeler.
"Not too many people can catch Avon, but Mike has been able to beat him in a race," Maderia said. "Avon has great peripheral vision and tremendous feet. He has special qualities."
He hasn't been able to elude recruiters. Maderia said West Virginia, Minnesota and Tennessee have already offered Cobourne scholarships.
Colleges have been slower to embrace Osborne.
"Even though Mike is the same height as Avon, colleges want receivers who are 6-4," Maderia said. "I tell recruiters that he is the real thing. I'll stake my reputation on a kid like Mike Osborne. He's about winning. Schools that don't recruit him are missing the boat."
Holy Cross, which uses an almost entire two-platoon system, has one of South Jersey's top offensive linemen, Ken Sandor. The 6-5, 300-pounder has already been offered a scholarship by one ACC school and there are others who will almost surely follow.
"I'm expecting a big year from Ken," Maderia said. "He is somebody who has always been a big kid, but you have to remember that he was a kid in a man's body. Now he is really beginning to develop."
Also returning are the rest of the receiving corps, tight end Brian Kovacs, and receivers Joe Moran and Ray Quinn, who all caught 10 or more passes.
The main question is who will throw the ball. Last year Ed Mebs entered the season with a relatively low profile and ended it as the all-South Jersey quarterback.
This year there are five contenders for the job. Heading the list is Eric Dare, a 5-10, 180-pound junior. Two years ago Dare was the backup varsity quarterback as a freshman. He moved to Pennsylvania last year, but has returned to the area.
One area that Holy Cross hopes to improve on is the defense. Last year the Lancers allowed an average of 22.4 points per game. Since the offense averaged 42.5 points, it often obscured the defensive miscues.
Senior lineman Matt Steiner [5-11, 245], who was a second-team all conference selection, heads the defense. Steiner is a third-year starter. Also bolstering the line is Jason Romero, a 6-4, 225-pound junior and Tony Gore, a 6-5 200-pound senior who lettered last year and appears ready to bloom this season.
The Lancers should be bolstered by the addition of kicker-tight end Roman Galas, who transferred from Bishop Eustace and will have to sit out the first 30 days of the season under NJSIAA transfer laws.
The schedule has its expected potential minefields, especially in the second through fifth games when the Lancers meet in successive weeks, Deptford, Cherokee, Delran and Rancocas Valley.
If Holy Cross can survive this beginning, the Lancers may be able to hang around the top of the polls.
No matter what happens, Maderia won't be politicking. He'll let the team's actions on the field do all the talking.
©1998 South Jersey Sports Online