Familiar face assumes control of Cleveland VASJ football program

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Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph Vikings

2009 will be a season of change for the Villa Angela-St. Joseph Vikings. The storied program that has produced athletes such as Elvis Grbac and Desmond Howard is not only moving down to Division V this year, but will be doing so with a new head coach.


Villa Angela-St. Joseph (5-5)

* Players To Watch – QB/WR/DB Anthony Libertini (6-0, 185, Sr.), RB/DB Ronnel Spates (5-9, 160, Sr.), WR Kyle Johnson (5-11, 180, Sr.), WR Phil Tucker (6-3, Sr.), OL/DL Tony Rini (6-2, 250, Sr.), OL/DL Jamal Chatman (6-2, 240, Sr.), OL/DL Kevin Koehl (6-3, 255, Jr.), QB/WR/DB Darryl Jones (6-3, 220, Jr.), WR/LB Kwamae Sawyer (6-0, 175, Jr.)

* Outlook –
2009 will be a season of change for the Villa Angela-St. Joseph Vikings. The storied program that has produced athletes such as Elvis Grbac and Desmond Howard is not only moving down to Division V this year, but will be doing so with a new head coach.

Previous head coach Matt Melle resigned late in the school year due to differences with the school’s administration. Melle, who was 10-10 in two years as VA-SJ head coach, will be replaced by a very familiar face — former football and wrestling head coach and St. Joseph grad John Storey. 

Storey coached wrestling for 25 years at VA-SJ, a tenure that included a state championship in 1990. In 1989, Storey was the defensive coordinator under legendary head coach Bill Gutbrod for a state championship football squad.

“Beyond his legendary status in the Viking Village, John brings years of mature coaching experience on the high school and college levels to the position,” said VA-SJ president Brian Menard.

Melle, himself a VA-SJ grad, did not come by his decision to leave his alma mater lightly.

“This was not a knee jerk decision,” Melle told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I struggled with this decision for a while.”

“There was a difference in philosophy concerning the short term success of the football program,” Melle also said. “At this time, it didn’t mesh, which is OK. It was just a difference of opinion.” 

The team that Storey is taking over will face several challenges this year on the gridiron.

“Both sides of the football need to be rebuilt,” Melle told JJHuddle/Ohio High before his resignation. “We lost some really productive skill players, especially Andre Wells (Lake Erie College). Our lines will be untested and that is a big concern with who we open up with and our non-conference schedule. We lost all five starters on the line from a year ago and we lost our whole front seven, so to say we have some holes to fill would be an understatement.

“We can have nine or ten guys playing both ways this year. Skill positions return some productive players. Both lines must be rebuilt after losing four starters on offensive side and four starters on defensive side. Defense returns only one starter.”

With the schedule that the Vikings play, the team will not have much time to come together. The team gets its first test immediately, opening against Division II power Mentor Lake Catholic.

“The schedule is awfully tough out-of-conference with two Division I schools, a Division II school, a Division III school, and a 9-1 Division V playoff participant,” Melle said. “Lake Catholic will be a big physical football team and we will have a good idea of how big of strides we’ll need to make to get to where we want to go which is the playoffs.”

The key to this year’s team overcoming the hurdles in its path could be avoiding injury.

“As with any Division V school, injuries are a big concern,” Melle said. “Our depth will all be young kids and maybe even some freshmen. They’ll need to pick up our system quickly and become acclimated to the physical nature of the game. That could take some time.”

Schedule

8/29 LAKE CATHOLIC (MENTOR)    
9/5 UNIVERSITY SCHOOL (HUNTING VALLEY)
9/12 @ SHAKER HEIGHTS
9/19 @ WHEELERSBURG
9/25 @ SOUTH (WILLOUGHBY)    
10/3 ELYRIA CATHOLIC 
10/10 @ CLEVELAND CENTRAL CATHOLIC
10/16 @ PADUA FRANCISCAN (PARMA)    
10/24 ST PETER CHANEL (BEDFORD)    
10/31 TRINITY (GARFIELD HTS.)

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