Holy Cross ready to take next step
It has been a bit of a bumpy ride for Holy Cross alumnus Nick Saltaformaggio at his alma mater.
A proven winner throughout his head coaching career at Chalmette, Oconee (Georgia), Abbeville, East Jefferson and Hahnille, Saltaformaggio accepted the call to return home to the Tigers in 2020, just in time for a massive pandemic to grip the country and impact his effort to hit the starting gate running.
After all, Saltaformaggio has the maps to the treasure.
In 2013, he guided East Jefferson to the Class 4A state championship, the only state title in school history.
In 2015, Saltaformaggio led Hahnville to the Class 5A state championship game in 2017.
The Tigers started well in 2020, beating rival Chalmette in Saltaformaggio’s debut but then came a gauntlet of Jesuit, Warren Easton, Archbishop Rummel, John Curtis Christian and St. Augustine.
The Tigers lost all five after the opening victory and lost a playoff rematch to the Purple Knights to finish 1-6.
There was a bit of progress in 2021.
Though the Tigers were just 3-6, They broke through with a huge district win over perennial power Rummel.
With a host of starters back and his stamp now firmly on the program, Saltaformaggio is poised to field a solid team in 2021.
“I feel like this is my team now,” Saltaformaggio said. “I came to Holy Cross to win a state championship, which has not been done in 57 years. The kids work like they believe it can happen. We have stressed the rich history to our players. They understand now that the focus is the greatness of Holy Cross football. That was the culture I wanted to create.”
There is outstanding team speed to lean on.
Most importantly, there is experience, with 13 starters returning.
That includes at quarterback, where junior Cole Canatella (6-0, 175) is back to lead the attack. Canatella completed 46 of 101 passes for 1,001 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions as a sophomore in a run-based offense which will now switch to a Pro style attack to feature outstanding speed on the outside.
“I think Cole can be the best quarterback in the district,” Saltaformaggio said. “He works as hard as anyone I’ve ever been around. He has a chance to be really good. I think he will have a very good year with the weapons he has around him.”
That includes junior wide receiver Koby Young (6-0, 180), who had 22 catches for 211 yards and four touchdowns a year ago. Young has offers from Tulane, Louisiana Tech, Texas Tech, Troy and Charlotte.
Young is joined by a speedster in junior track star Krosse Johnson (6-0, 180), who has elite speed. Johnson, who won the LHSAA state championship in both the 100 meter and 200 meter dashes, has an offer from Texas Tech.
Junior tight end Hayden Barnes (6-3, 220) returns and he is a physical force, as is junior H-Back Derrick Johnson (6-4, 225). Barnes had 10 receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown in 2021 and he is a good blocker.
The running back position features a pair of talented sophomores and a junior.
The junior is Braden Cookmeyer (5-8, 185) while the sophomores are Claude Johnson (6-0, 175) and Kayden Andoh (5-9, 180).
“I’ve never had a group of this many skill players with talent,” Saltaformaggio said. “With Young, Krosse Johnson, Barnes, Derrick Johnson, Finn Martin and a group of talented running backs, there is a host of talent. We are five-deep at wide receiver and have big, rangy tight ends.”
Up front, Holy Cross must replace four starters but senior guard Seth Doran (6-0, 295) is back to anchor the group. Doran is joined at guard by sophomore Andre Huete (6-1, 255).
The tackles are junior Collin Wensel (6-1, 215) and sophomore Kayden Bourgeois (6-4, 270) and the center is junior Albert Pumila (5-10, 250).
“We have the
The Tiger defense has a ton of experience, with 10 players who started games a year ago returning.
Up front, all four down linemen are seniors now and started games a year ago and it is a very strong unit.
They include Lance Williams (6-4, 250), David Griffin (6-2, 320), Ian Tate (5-10, 240) and Jordan Johnson (6-4, 220). Griffin was in on 25 tackles, including four resulting in loss, in 2021. Tate was in on 37 tackles, including 1.5 sacks and he forced two fumbles last season.
A trio of starting linebackers are back, including seniors Braden Prince (5-10, 180) and Garrett Cantrelle (5-9, 180), along with junior Trent Santos (6-0, 225). Santos had 63 tackles a year ago.
The new starters are senior Cooper Couvillion (6-0, 200), junior Billy Eaton (6-1, 205) and sophomore Nick Digerolamo (5-9, 180), an accomplished wrestler.
The secondary returns three starters, including senior Darian Blount (6-2, 175), along with juniors Jake Roberts (5-10, 190) and Matt Cacamo (5-10, 170). The new starter is junior Reece Gordon (5-11, 180). Roberts recorded 65 tackles, including a fumble recovery for a touchdown last season.
Senior Colin Markey (5-10, 185) will handle kicking and punting duties while the return game is dangerous with Young, Johnson and sophomore Finn Martin (5-8, 170).
The schedule opens at Holy Cross of San Antonio in the first annual Cross and Anchor Bowl with a tough matchup against talented De La Salle, followed by the annual rivalry game against Chalmette.
District 9-5A play opens against Archbishop Rummel on Sept. 24 before facing John Curtis Christian. Then comes a date with St. Augustine before squaring off with Brother Martin. Week eight has the Tigers facing new district member and perennial power Karr.
The annual Great America Rivalry Series contest with rival Jesuit is set for Oct. 28 and the regular season concludes with a non-district game with East St. John on November 4.
While the district has gotten even tougher, with speed, an experienced quarterback and a very experienced defense, the Tigers appear ready to take the next step toward real success for a coach accustomed to having huge success.
“This is the 100th year of Holy Cross football,” Saltaformaggio said. “This is a special season and we want to make it special for a school which I love.”
Click here for more CCS Prep Football team previews (including archives of past season previews).
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…