Goss: Dominic Lagone story — the making of a quarterback
August 25, 2012 2:18AM
Providence Catholic quarterback Dominic Lagone drops back to pass against Joliet Catholic Academy during their football game in New Lenox Friday, August 24, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 27, 2012 11:27AM
For all the hoopla surrounding the Friday night season opener at Matt Senffner Field, nobody saw this coming.
At least, none of us who do not attend Providence’s daily practices.
The fact the Celtics beat No. 2 Joliet Catholic 40-34 was an upset but not a shocker, especially after the Hilltoppers lost wingback Ty Isaac to a right shoulder injury.
Providence senior tailback Brandon Price and senior Do-It-All Chad Weaver, my choice as the player of the game, were as important to the Celtics as billed. And that linebacker who leads the Celtics’ defense, senior Brian Fordon, can play on my team any time.
The surprise of the night, though, had to be the performance of junior quarterback Dominic Lagone, who manned that all-important position for the first time in his life.
Lagone is a running back by trade, which was evident on a couple of his key scrambles. But his passing was excellent — 8-of-12 for 135 yards — and he ran the offense like an old pro.
“If you guys have a game ball, you have to give it to Dominic Lagone,” Fordon said. “OK, maybe Chad Weaver, too. But we needed a quarterback, and nobody would have played it any better than Dominic did tonight.”
Weaver agreed Lagone was a major reason the Celtics were able to pull it off.
“Dominic was amazing,” Weaver said. “I knew he could do this, that he wouldn’t choke. He just has an attitude to be chilled like he was tonight.”
The spectacle turned into a shootout of sorts, the type of game Providence coach Mark Coglianese said beforehand that he wasn’t sure his team could win.
“Our offense won it, no doubt about that,” said Coglianese, whose offensive line consists of five first-year starters. “Chad Weaver was one of the biggest reasons. He really stepped up and played well in different positions. Obviously, Brandon Price had a nice game.
“And Dominic Lagone, what you saw from him, he’s just that type of kid.”
The Providence quarterback situation was unsettled after junior Jake Godfrey, who would have been the man, decided in midsummer to give up football and concentrate on baseball. He is an excellent pitcher.
At that point, senior Nate Stramaglia was the best candidate. Another problem, however. He was at Providence for two years, transferred to Sandburg for one semester, then returned to Providence in the middle of last school year. The Celtics knew he could be ineligible, and sure enough, that’s the way the IHSA ruled late last week.
So, the job came down to Lagone or sophomore wide receiver Miles Boykin. Coglianese had planned to give both some time at quarterback Friday, but Lagone was moving the offense so well, there was no need to switch up.
To play that well in your first game is one thing. To play that well against Joliet Catholic before a huge crowd and a national television audience on ESPNU is quite another.
In fact, no matter how well Lagone played, he still figured to be overshadowed by his opposite number, Joliet Catholic senior quarterback Craig Slowik. The Hilltoppers’ passing attack proved as good as billed. Slowik passed for 214 yards, completing 13-of-23, and receivers Chris Tschida and Jordan Jones, both new to the varsity, showed they can be special weapons.
“We had some problems with pass defense,” said Fordon, whose two sacks in the closing minutes helped seal the deal. “I told the guys somebody has to step up there, and we’ll get it done. I told the guys earlier, the only way to start this season is to beat Joliet Catholic. This sets the tone for a very good year.”
That feeling about a very good year might have been shared on the other sideline as well. Joliet Catholic coach Dan Sharp noted how valuable it can be to begin the season against a quality opponent such as Providence, regardless of the outcome.
“We weren’t sound in the running game, and on defense it looked to me the problem was we had missed tackles and we were lunging — fundamental things,” he said. “It’s disappointing because those are things we work on.
“But after this, two things can happen. Either the players improve or you make changes. Well, I think our players will improve. We can really learn a lot from this and get a lot better.”
One thing both sides experienced was playing under playoff-type pressure, even in Week 1.
“I was nervous all night,” Sharp said. “I can imagine what the kids were feeling.”