When you think of St. Martin’s Episcopal School, you think of academic excellence.
In recent years, the Saints have been good at women’s basketball.
Not so long ago (2007-11) in football there were five consecutive winning football seasons, but that was the exception rather than the rule. Volleyball was a playoff team. Basketball and baseball for boys are competitive.
The Saints would like to make this kind of success the rule rather than the exception.
Frank Gendusa is a solid and experienced trainer.
Gendusa has extensive experience as a head coach at Newman (1995-2004) and Country Day School in Fort Worth, Texas (2007-2019).
In 2020, Gendusa accepted the challenge to become the head coach of St. Martin’s Episcopal School.
The Saints were competitive, going 3-4 a year ago.
“When I came and accepted the job, I told them I thought it would take five years and this is the fifth year coming up,” Gendusa said. “I wanted to make sure we learned to compete at all levels, in all sports. I didn’t think we knew how to do this when I started and we made it a huge priority. It paid off.
The main losses for last year’s team at graduation were Skylar Shank and Shawn Shank.
The Saints again remain a relatively young side in 2022.
“We often didn’t have enough kids to even finish the season properly,” Gendusa said. “We feel like we have the numbers in place now to compete.”
The offense will start with talented second-year running back Harlem Berry (6-0, 165), who is one of the most talented running backs the Saints have had in several years. Last season, Berry rushed for 2,036 yards and 25 touchdowns and earned all-district and all-state honors.
“Our offense will go with how Harlem plays out,” Gendusa said. “He’s a real talent. He’s already had nine offers at the end of his first year, including from LSU and Ohio State, among others. We have to keep him healthy, but we have to give him the ball and the bring it to this second level.
Two other stars are senior tight end/linebacker Grant Gendusa (6-3, 220), the head coach’s grandson, and senior wide receiver/defensive back Seth Mandella (5-10, 165).
“Grant can run and catch and can also block,” Gendusa said.
Daniel Schexnaildre (6-0, 172) and second Ashton Oliver (5-8, 143) join Mandella at wide receiver.
Senior quarterback Matt Mannino (6-0, 165) returns to lead the offense. Oliver can also play quarterback.
“We have to be able to throw the ball better to take the heat out of Berry,” Gendusa said. “We have receivers that can catch the ball and we have a senior quarterback in Mannino and we could play Oliver there because he’s a good athlete.”
Up front, the Saints are young with junior center Dylan Raines (6-0, 225), junior guards Manny Bejaran (6-1, 228) and Dominic Hogan (5-11, 205) and second-best tackles year Zach Kelly (6-1, 265) and Daniel Fink (6-2, 290).
“We have good-sized linemen,” Gendusa said. “Although they are young, they have already played and have experience. We don’t have a lot of them, so they have to play both ways and stay healthy.
The defensive line includes Kelly, Bejaran and seniors Tim Roberts (6-1, 194) and Garrett Devinney (6-0, 193) in the bottom spots.
Linebackers include Gendusa, Hogan and Mandela while the secondary includes Schexnaildre, Mannino and juniors Chris Profit (5-11, 140) and Daken Baker (6-2, 181).
Sophomore Cooper Helmke (6-0, 136) is the kicker while Mannino handles punting duties.
“We have some experience in secondary school,” Gendusa said. “Our corners are back and our players up front are pretty good in Devinney and Roberts. Baker is doing a great job, as is Schexnaildre at outside linebacker.
“Last year we scored but we didn’t stop people. We have to be better defensively and think we will be. The addition of Kevin Dizer will really help.
Dizer comes from Riverside Academy, where he was the head coach.
The schedule opens on September 2 against Ben Franklin before the Saints welcome Pope John Paul II. After a game on the road against Riverdale, comes Abramson before the Saints host The Willow School.
District 10-1A play kicks off at Riverside Academy on Oct. 7 before the Saints host Crescent City Christian and West St. John. After playing on the road against Cohen, St. Martin’s closes at home against Varnado on November 4.
“We have four teams that are Class 4A schools on the schedule,” Gendusa said. “It will be a challenge. Riverside and West St. John are still good. I’m not sure about Cohen or Varnado but I’m sure they’ll be competitive.
With outstanding running play, the Saints have a chance to rise through the ranks and become a true local and Division IV-level factor in 2022.
“I think we have an opportunity and hopefully we can win around seven games,” Gendusa said.
It would mean a change for the better with the Saints.
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