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Demoted Xaverian football faces tough rebuilding process

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Recently hired Xaverian football coach Mike Jioia faces a rebuilding job in a new league format because of losses to graduation and more key players potentially leaving the school.

The Clippers are preseason ranked 15 out of 22 teams in the Catholic High School Football League’s shift from two divisions to one, which was announced this week. Each team’s schedule is power rated based on preseason rank.

Xaverian was preseason ranked third last season. The league’s coaches voted the Clippers 15th for next year because at the time of the meeting there was no head coach in place and little proven talent returning, according to school athletic director Anthony Mancusi. That doesn’t mean they don’t plan on getting back near the top.

“We are going to field as competitive a team as the players and the coaches allow,” Mancusi said. “We want to compete at the highest level.”

The Clippers are losing 15 seniors including stars Laray Smith and Zach Kearney from a team that went 2–7 and had an injury-plagued junior varsity that finished in the middle of its division. Mancusi said top potential returnees have recently left or are in the process of leaving. Another was dismissed from the school. He would not divulge their names.

Sources told the Courier that junior receiver Jordan Blake was expelled for disciplinary reasons. Stud freshman wide receiver and defensive back Rahmel Ashby has already left the school. Fellow varsity teammates, freshman receiver Justin Philips and sophomore lineman Kamari Jones-Hunter, and junior varsity receiver Ahmed Bah, are considering not returning next season.

Jones-Hunter said he could not comment at this time and is still currently a student at Xaverian. Hearing the team’s low ranking after former coach Joe DeSiena was fired prompted those players to consider going elsewhere, according to sources. The Bay Ridge high school was regularly among the league’s top eight squads and reached two Class AAA semifinal games in the last five years under DeSiena. He was dismissed at season’s end because he did not meet the school’s requirement of having a Master’s degree within five years of being hired as a teacher.

The school is raising its standards for incoming students, adding to Xaverian’s hurdles as it looks to rebuild.

“The building demographics are changing,” Jioia said. “They want the high academics and the high character and the high behavior. If that is the type of kid they are going to go with, you might sacrifice a more athletic kid who is not a straight A student.”

Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at jstaszewski@cnglocal.com. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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