The evolution of the St. Paul offense: From bombs away to ground and pound

St. Paul Catholic football won its fourth straight game on Friday 26-14 at Torrington on the strength of its ground game.
Three years ago, that sentence wouldn’t have been truthful.
Welcome to St. Paul football, the home of the…wishbone?
That’s right. The Falcons, a team that seemed like it threw on every play with Logan Marchi at quarterback, has turned into a run first, run nearly all the time outfit.
The stats don’t lie. St. Paul averages 326.4 rushing yards per game, according to statistics posted on
That strong running attack chews up yards and clock, and it has put the Falcons at 4-1 midway through the 2016 season.
Quarterback Kevin Ashworth has attempted five passes this season.
St. Paul has run 221 plays, and 216 have been runs. Pierce Piana has the bulk of the carries for the Falcon backfield, but the balance supplied by Damien Rabis and Chris Dionne has made this a multi-pronged attack. Of course, the offense goes nowhere without blockers on the line and off the line. The big boys up front, and other blockers such as the wide receivers, deserve credit for giving their backs space to run.
When did St. Paul, a spread passing team with Marchi at the helm, decide to run so much?
The changeover actually began in 2014, the first year after Marchi.
Pat Etter did a solid job of directing the St. Paul offense in his only season as the starting quarterback. What really made the offense go, however, was the running of senior Eli Parks in a one-back behind a strong offensive line.
Parks carried the ball 249 times for 2,304 yards and 31 touchdowns.
None of the above is a misprint. Parks’ total is tops in school history for a single season, and it also ranks him 19th all-time in the state in the same category, according to the Connecticut High School Football Record Book compiled by Gerry DeSimas Jr. and Bob Barton.
Don’t get confused though. St. Paul could still throw, with Etter tossing 19 touchdowns and 1,919 yards on 123-of-198 passing.
Last year, there was no Parks, no Etter, no Daija Fitzpatrick, and no Brendan Carroll. What would St. Paul do on offense?
The Falcons did have a tremendous athlete returning in the backfield, and his name was Ben Pryor. St. Paul went even further away from the pass, installing the wishbone offense that head coach Jude Kelly employed while at East Catholic in Manchester. The thought was to use the ability of Pryor, and a strong offensive line, to run the ball.
Pryor, a senior, carried 139 times for 1,622 yards and 28 touchdowns. Pierce Piana, a transfer, ripped off 659 yards and four scores in five games after sitting out the first half of the season. Quarterback Kyle Deforge ran for more than double the yards that he threw for (295 to 125).
St. Paul has continued its run, run, run philosophy this season, and it has worked well. It has been a crazy transformation, but one the Falcons have done a pretty good job in making. Credit for that goes to not only the players for buying in, but Kelly and his coaches for their tutelage.

All statistics came from St. Paul Catholic’s website.