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Providence quarterback Kevin Conway, returning from an injury that cost him most of last season, looks to fire a pass during a practice. Steve Millar/22nd Century Media
Joe Bielanski, Sports Intern
3:33 pm CDT August 23, 2019

Providence Catholic’s football team feels it never had a real chance to show what it was made of last season as key injuries piled up early.

In 2019, the Celtics are after redemption and out to prove they are better than their 5-5 record from a year ago.

“Those couple injuries last season — I mean, obviously losing your quarterback [Kevin Conway] is huge,” Providence coach Mark Coglianese said. “Losing Max [Pignotti], who is kind of like the quarterback on defense, those were two big blows in Week 1 and 2. We had a good year last year, not great. We want to finish better and get back to where we want to be at the end of the season.”

Coglianese likes the progress this team has made during the summer. And he is looking to put together a complete team that works as a cohesive unit.

“This group has a lot of returning starters,” Coglianese said. “Almost eight on each side of the ball has had experience. It’s a hungry group of seniors. ... They definitely want to turn some things around.”

One of the athletes who is part of that redemption story and ready to get back on the field is Conway. Conway won the starting quarterback job as a sophomore but suffered a broken collarbone in Week 2. He was out the rest of the regular season before returning for the Celtics’ loss to Washington in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.

“It was a read,” Conway said of the play that led to the injury. “The end bit, so I went around and I had an opportunity to go out of the sideline. I thought that I could make it a big play. It was an 80-yard run and, last second, my ankle bit me, I tripped and fell weird.

“I broke my collarbone. I knew right away. My coaches asked me if I was all right, because I was walking slow. I told them I was fine, but then I walked 10 more yards and thought that I was going to pass out.”

In a flash, his season was done. Conway could not believe it was over.

“When I got in the trainer’s room, I got all emotional,” Conway said. “I couldn’t believe that I worked this hard for it to end so quickly. On the sideline, the trainer was feeling around and popped it back into place, I was able to avoid surgery. It hurt real bad, but it was worth it to avoid surgery.”

While sitting out, Conway was able to look at things from a different perspective from the bench.

“It was frustrating but also a plus,” Conway said. “I got to learn the playbook better. I was talking with the coaches, and they said it could be a good thing that this happened.

“It was an opportunity to learn more about the game. Everything happens for a reason. It’s not worth it to get mad about it. Whenever I think about it, it gets me fired up for the rest of this season.”

Conway is ready to show what the Celtics can do.

“I feel that we are really slept on as a team,” he said. “No one really thinks that we’re going to be that much. Everyone has done their job and has been working hard. I’m excited to play, because I feel that we can do pretty good this year.”

Joining Conway back on the field after missing last year with an injury is Pignotti, a senior safety. Pignotti missed the season after a scary injury during Week 1. Pignotti had a pinched nerve in his neck.

“It was definitely scary,” Pignotti said. “It was against Lockport. Tight end came out, and I came up to hit him. He caught the pass and from then I blacked out. I woke up on the ground, couldn’t move anything or feel anything.”

Now more determined than ever, Pignotti is looking forward to the opportunity to help the defensive unit.

“Obviously it’s scary, but the doctors and everyone cleared me and assured me that I’m good to play,” Pignotti said.

Tight end and defensive end Jameson Geers hopes to be a major factor on both sides of the ball with his athleticism and strength.

“Last year, I felt that the game was a little fast for me,” Geers said. “I didn’t know the plays yet. This year, I felt that the game has slowed down for me. It’s allowed me to work on the small details and try to perfect the techniques that I need to do.”

Coglianese said he is excited about the pieces the Celtics have in place. Cincinnati recruit Jake Renfro anchors a veteran offensive line. Pignotti, Geers and senior defensive back Ryan Manikowski are among the key defenders.  

“I’d like to say our offensive line [is going to be a big strength],” Coglianese said. “Four of the five guys are back, and they’ve had a great off season. We run the ball well, but also have good pass protection. 

“Throwing the ball, we have some nice big targets. There’s Jameson Geers and Lucas Porto. We got some speed with Jerrell Wright, a track guy and two-year starter for us. So, we’ve got some weapons. As long as we give the quarterback a little bit of time, we’re excited about our offense.”

The road ahead

• Week 1 - at Willowbrook, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 30

• Week 2 - hosts Morgan Park, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 6

• Week 3 - at Brother Rice, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13

• Week 4 - hosts Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20  

• Week 5 – hosts Carmel, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27

• Week 6 - hosts St. Rita, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 4

• Week 7 - vs. DePaul Prep at Chicago Academy, noon Oct. 12 

• Week 8 - hosts St. Laurence, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18

• Week 9 - at Montini, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25

Twist of Fate

After winning the Class 7A state championship in 2014 when current Baltimore Ravens receiver Miles Boykin was on the squad, the Celtics failed to make it to the playoffs the following two seasons. But they righted the ship with postseason appearances in 2017 and 2018.