The football team has had its share of successes over the years with plenty of trophies and several high school, college and pro football stars gracing its history.
And while plenty of arguments have raged over the years about which team might have been its best, the 2011 edition has certainly done its part to add to the program’s lore and sprinkle more spice on those good old-fashion debates.
This past Sunday, the Sabers won the Cleveland/Akron CYO Division 2 Varsity Football Championship, 45-22, over Immaculate Heart of Mary at Bedford Bearcat Stadium and finished 10-0 under the tutelage of long-time coach Tim Deininger.
The Communion of Saints, formerly known as St. Ann at Cedar and Coventry in Cleveland Heights, teaches kindergarten to eighth grade. Running backs James Norris and Greg Jones powered the team’s offense along with quarterback and safety Vince Baerman, and the all-around play of tight end, running back and linebacker Reggie Flowers. All are in the eighth grade.
While Deininger is reluctant to pick and choose between players of different eras, he made it clear this edition of the Sabers belongs in all the conversations of the school’s best teams.
“It’s hard to compare over the 28 years I’ve been there. I hear this all the time, ‘we would have beat these guys, blah, blah, blah,’ but my two running backs were very, very dominant. Having 17 guys on the team, all 17 of them could play football. When you have that kind of balance, it just all kind of comes together,” Deininger said.
The Sabers so dominated their competition that they didn’t allow any school to score more than two touchdowns until Sunday’s championship game. For the season, they outscored their opponents, 355-41.
“We gave up six touchdowns in 10 games,” Deininger said. “Swarming, that’s the best way I can describe my defense with 11 men to the ball at all times. We really forced teams to struggle against us.”
Deininger, 51, won his fifth championship and first since 2001. Deininger also won titles in 1990, 1994 and 1996. Deininger, who is a bartender at the Empty Glass in Cleveland Heights, has been the head coach at the school since 1986.
Deininger went to the school as a child and his father, Tom, was an assistant coach there from 1968 to 1969. Deininger tagged along as a water boy and that became his introduction into football. His father stopped coaching when he reached the sixth grade and was eligible to play.
“I don’t think he wanted to coach me is what happened,” Deininger said. “He had enough of me by then. He got out while the getting was good.”
Deininger began as an assistant in 1982, and the school appeared in five straight city championships from 1982 to 1986 winning three of them.
As one might imagine, the school has been an incubator for great football talent over the years.
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is perhaps its best known football graduate who finished school there two years before Deininger began as an assistant.
There’s been St. Ignatius graduate Jacob Bell who starts on the offensive line for the St. Louis Rams and has been in the NFL for the last eight years. Bell played with Steelers quarterback and two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger at Miami of Ohio.
John Favret III, who was a first-team, all-state player at St. Ignatius, was a four-year starter at Wisconsin and played defensive end.
Pete Fitzpatrick, whose father Jim coached Deininger at the school, played tailback on St. Ignatius’ 1988 and 1989 state champion teams and started three years at Cornell University.
Deininger said the school mostly funnels players to St. Ignatius, Benedictine and Notre Dame Cathedral Latin. Currently, St. Ignatius has on its roster Ian McDonald, a junior linebacker and special teams player, and junior varsity quarterback Peter Mahoney, a sophomore.
Deininger said about half of his coaching staff played for him at some point, underlining the communal atmosphere and former players’ willingness to give back to the school. He believes it also played a big part in the team’s success this season.
“It’s not too bad either when you’ve got 10 coaches for 17 kids, I’ll tell you that,” Deininger said.
Communion of Saints 2011 results:
Communion of Saints 26, St. Rita 0
Communion of Saints 45, Holy Family 0
Communion of Saints 26, St. Francis de Sales 0
Communion of Saints 28, St. Mary of Chardon 7
Communion of Saints 39, Sacred Heart of Jesus 6
Communion of Saints 44, St. Rita 0
Communion of Saints 32, Holy Family 0
Communion of Saints 41, St. Rita 6
Communion of Saints 29, St. Mary of Chardon 0
Communion of Saints 45, Immaculate Heart of Mary 22