Bedford St. Peter Chanel 2007 Season Preview


Bedford St. Peter Chanel

The St. Peter Chanel football program has been on a roller coaster ride the past six seasons. The Firebirds captured a state title in 2001 but soon fell upon hard times, including an 0-10 mark in 2004. Last season, however, Chanel appeared to get back on track with nine regular season wins and a playoff victory. 

Kirk Larrabee checks in with more on the 2007 Firebirds.

TB/CB Aaron Roberson (5-11, 175, Sr.), C/DE Nick Hunter (6-1, 220, Sr.), TE/DE Nick Womack (6-1, 210, Sr.), OT/DT Mike McElligott (6-2, 255, Sr.), LB/FB Tom Gittinger (5-11, 195, Sr.)

2006 Record: 10-2

The St. Peter Chanel football program has been on a roller coaster ride the past six seasons. The Firebirds captured a state title in 2001 but soon fell upon hard times, including an 0-10 mark in 2004. Last season, however, Chanel appeared to get back on track with nine regular season wins and a playoff victory. 

“We’re proud of what we accomplished,” head coach Dave Stupka said. “We won our league championship. It was the third time in six years that we won a league championship. We qualified for the playoffs and won our first-round playoff game. So we were very proud of what we accomplished, especially for our seniors because just two years earlier, we had gone 0-10, and all those players were key components on a team that went 0-10, and we were able to almost completely turn it around within a two-year period.  

“A lot of credit goes to the seniors but also a strong junior class, which we return this year. We’re proud of that, especially for the seniors who are graduating here in a few days that they have some good memories and good accomplishments from the 2006 team.”

Despite the success, the season didn’t exactly end the way the team had hoped it would. 

“The one thing we were disappointed in was we always set our goal that we want to play our best game the last game of the year,” Stupka said. “We didn’t feel we did that, and Liberty-Benton had a lot to do with that. They played a great game against us and deserve to win, and when it was all said and done, they were the better team that day. You always wish you had another shot at it but you only get one chance, so we’re proud of what we did.” 

The success Chanel saw in 2006 was deserved for a group of seniors that took their lumps earlier in their careers. Stupa looks back on the hard times as something that helped begin the upward momentum in the program.  

“I think the biggest thing was, those kids who played as sophomores were playing a brutal schedule,” Stupka said. “They’re 14-15 years old and we’re playing the likes of Parma Padua, Archbishop Hoban, and Mentor Lake Catholic. Really we set the foundation that year when we went 0-10 because those guys very easily could have packed it up and said ‘To heck with it, there’s no way we’re going to win against those teams.’ But the one thing that team did was they played hard for 48 minutes no matter what the score was, and we used that as a springboard for 2005 where we were competitive in all of our games but we didn’t know how to win yet.  

“I think it was their perseverance of sticking to the plan, believing in what we were doing and working hard. We didn’t do anything that was cutting edge or provocative, it was just hard work by the players on our team. Then some of the games we let slip away in 2005, with an extra year of experience we were able to come out on the good end of those. So I wish there was a magic formula I could give you for that but I think it boils down to their perseverance. That year of going 0-10, as coaches we found you really find people’s true character when you go through something bad like that. That core of seniors and juniors and sophomores that were on that team really never quit that year, so that kind of springboarded us for the next couple of years.” 

This year’s team on paper appears to be another solid group as the Firebirds return seven starters on offense and four on defense. The team is led by 1,900-yard rusher and district MVP Aaron Roberson, who is getting looks from Division I programs such as Navy, Air Force and the Mid-American Conference schools.  

“We have a lot of experienced players coming back in the skill areas,” Stupka said. “Our tailback gained over 1,900 yards last year and he’s back. Most of our receiving core is back. We have a lot of experience at our skill positions on both sides of the ball – secondary, offensive backfield as well as our receivers. On our offensive line we return three starters, so we have some areas where we’re going to have to play some players who weren’t starters last year.”  

Replacing some of the departed seniors will be a key issue to address for Chanel this season.  

“There’s some inexperience at key positions, so it’s going to depend on how we develop at those spots, especially defensively,” Stupka said. “We lose our two inside linebackers from last year, one of our defensive tackles and an all-star free safety. We’ve always been about you build your strength defensively through the middle. We’re confident that the people who come back this year are going to do the job, but we’re inexperienced at some of those spots. So that’s a concern right now – we need to develop quickly in that area. That’s kind of where we’re at right now with those things.  

“We graduated 13 or 14 seniors last year who played significant time, so we’re obviously going to miss them. We can’t miss them too long because we’ve got a season to prepare for. We have confidence in the guys that we have that have been in the program that they can step in and do a credible job for us. One of the things that we’re focusing on is last year was great and terrific, but it’s done with. We have to look forward now to where we’re going in 2007.”  

Many prognosticators are going to look for Chanel to do some very positive things in 2007, but Stupka and the team are making it a point to put all their focus on the opening game.  

“What our expectations are is we’re gearing everything towards our first game of the year against Cleveland JFK,” he said. “They were on our schedule in 2004 and 2005 and it’ll be quite a test for us. That’s really where we’re focused right now.”  

“One game at a time” may seem like a sports cliché to some, but Chanel followed that practice in 2006 and discovered that it worked well. Expect this year’s team to do the same.  

“We just want to take them one at a time, and that game is really crucial for us to get off to a good start and do the best we can and take it one week at a time from there,” Stupka said. “That’s the approach we took in 2006 – try to just focus on every day get a little bit better, whether it’s a practice or a game. As a program, like I said, our one goal is we want to play our best game the last game of the year. That’s our goal, and really we don’t talk about league championships, we don’t talk about making the playoffs. If we improve week by week, day by day, those things will be a byproduct of what we do.  

“Whether that’s unorthodox I don’t know, but we’re very comfortable with that. I’m comfortable with it. We don’t like to make any kind of bold proclamations; we just feel that if we do things the right way, improve and stay healthy, that those things will be a byproduct and those things will happen.” 

Bedford St. Peter Chanel
2007 Schedule

Date Opponent Division
8/24/2007 Cleveland JFK 2
8/31/2007 @ Sheffield Brookside 4
9/7/2007 Cleveland Rhodes 1
9/15/2007 @ Notre Dame Cathedral Latin 3
9/21/2007 @ Canton Central Catholic 4
9/29/2007 @ Cleveland VASJ 4
10/5/2007 Parma Heights Holy Name 3
10/12/2007 @ Elyria Catholic 4
10/19/2007 Cleveland Central Catholic 5
10/26/2007 @ Garfield Heights Trinity 5

* North Coast League games in bold

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