Holy Redeemer High School’s inaugural football team was expected to be just a revamped version of Bishop Hoban’s team last year.
Instead, coach Len Butczynski will have additional holes to fill, as three former Hoban starters have decided to transfer back to their public schools.
Tailback/linebacker Matt Kolojejchick will be the biggest void to fill. The leading rusher in the entire Wyoming Valley Conference last regular season returned to Wyoming Valley West, where he’ll play for coaching legend George Curry.
Also gone are tight end/linebacker Gino Raineri and free safety Mike Burns. The two former Hoban starters will play for Meyers. Both played freshman football for Meyers.
Butczynski said Kolojejchick has been participating in voluntary workouts at Valley West. Meyers coach Mike Namey confirmed Raineri and Burns have been doing the same with his team.
“When I first got the job, rumors were flying around, but nothing was set in stone,” said Butczynski, who was hired in May to coach Redeemer, a merger of four Catholic high schools in Luzerne County. “I talked to Kolojejchick and they weren’t sure about coming back. Ranieri and Burns never came around. The kids said they went back to Meyers.”
Kolojejchick was on Valley West’s preseason roster as a sophomore and then-coach Ed Michaels expected him to be part of a tailback rotation. Instead, he transferred to Hoban and played in the latter part of the season, posting two 100-yard games and rushing for 394 yards.
As a junior, Kolojejchick led the WVC in rushing during the regular season with 1,164 yards. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry, scored 11 touchdowns and had six games of 128 yards rushing or more. Valley West’s top two rushers from last season have graduated.
“I watched film of him from last year and it’s going to be tough,” Butczynski said. “I told the kids somebody is going to have to step up and be that player. The kids said they are going to, but it might not be just one of them.”
Raineri and Burns were key contributors mainly on defense for Hoban. Raineri also caught seven passes for 105 yards.
“They were starters on the team last year and would have been starters on the team this year,” Butczynski said. “But now as we’re going through it, we have kids that have stepped up.”
Butczynski remains optimistic despite the losses. He said Redeemer has 49 players on the varsity roster and about 40 have been showing up regularly for voluntary workouts. The PIAA prohibits mandatory practice for fall sports until Aug. 13.
“We’ve been behind the eight ball because we’ve been so late getting started,” Butczynski said. “The kids have been picking up the offense pretty well and the defense pretty well. We’ve been going four days a week.”
Redeemer will be Class 2A in football this fall. The school’s male enrollment according to the PIAA is 316, which is 21 under the number to move up to Class 3A.
The PIAA Committee of the Whole will meet at 7 p.m. today in Mechanicsburg to discuss whether to shorten the high school football season from 16 weeks to 15 weeks and whether to add more classifications.
According to District 2 chairman Frank Majikes, who will attend the meeting, a decision on both subjects could come late tonight or Friday morning when the Board of Directors meet at 8 a.m.
The proposal to shorten the season would cut the overlap to winter sports from two weeks to one. Three proposals will be considered for classifications – remaining at four classes or expanding to five or six.
Any decisions won’t take effect until the 2008-09 school year.