By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — When Gabe Infante took the job as St. Joseph Prep football coach, he envisioned taking the program to new heights. Last year, Prep won its first PIAA Class AAAA state championship. This year, the Hawks will probably be nationally ranked to begin the season.
Prep will play the most challenging schedule of any team in Pennsylvania during the 2014 season—and a tough docket became more difficult with the addition of Ohio state power St. Ignatius in Week 3, on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m.
“The plan has always been to compete at a national level and have a shot at being the best program in the country; that’s always been the goal for us and will continue to be the goal for us,” Infante said. “Setting high standards for ourselves is consistent with the mission of the school, and to be the best, you have to play the best. That’s what we’re trying to do. We don’t concern ourselves with outside expectations. The only expectations that matter are the expectations we put on ourselves. Whatever everyone else expects is irrelevant. No one has higher expectations for ourselves than us.”
Above all, Infante stressed, is how much the Hawks find out about themselves. Prep wasn’t supposed to beat Pittsburgh Central Catholic in last year’s state championship, yet the Hawks ran over the Vikings, 35-10, with 28 unanswered points in the second half.
St. Ignatius and Prep have played twice previously. The Wildcats beat Prep in 2004, 26-6, at St. Ignatius’ Byers Field. The following year in 2005, the Hawks beat Ignatius, 28-14, at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School.
With Archbishop Ryan dropping from Class AAAA to Class AAA, the Philadelphia Catholic League Class AAAA Division only has four teams—Prep, La Salle, Father Judge and Roman Catholic. Prep will play those three at the end of its schedule. The Hawks will open with Mount Carmen, Donovan McNabb’s alma mater, host North Jersey power Don Bosco in Week 2, then face Ignatius, a Week 4 bye, then St. Joseph’s Regional and Inter-Ac force Malvern Prep.
“We could very possibly be 2-3 or 1-4 by the time we begin the Catholic League, but at the end of the day, we have to find out how good we can be,” Infante said. “At the end, we want to see our weaknesses and strengthens by the time the games matter most. We’ll know what they are. We expect to be in every game we play, but we don’t want to be a paper lion, or a paper hawk. We’re working toward winning the games that count. That’s what people remember. The objective is to win a state championship.”
St. Joseph’s Prep 2014 Schedule
Week 1: at Mt. Carmel (IL), Sunday, August 31 at 12 p.m.
Week 2: vs. Don Bosco (NJ), site TBA, Saturday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m.
Week 3: at Saint Ignatius (OH), Saturday, Sept. 13th, 7 p.m.
Week 4: Bye
Week 5: at St. Joseph’s Regional (NJ), Saturday, Sept. 27th at 2 p.m.
Week 6: at Malvern Prep, Saturday, Oct. 4 at 1 p.m.
Week 7: La Salle at PW, Friday, Oct. 10, 7:30 p.m.
Week 8: Father Judge, Saturday, Oct. 18 time to be determined
Week 9: Roman Catholic, Saturday, Oct. 25 time to be determined