by Scott Fredericks Published as part of the December 14, 2011 edition. Dave Marciano and Tim Ladd were rivals when they were students at St. Christina and St. Cajetan, respectively, and played football in the Southside Catholic Conference.
But then the standouts landed at the same high school, St. Rita, and were a part of one of the state’s most successful programs.
Now in college, Marciano and Ladd are once again making an impact together on the football field.
Marciano, a starting linebacker, and Ladd, the starting right tackle, along with junior center Matt Munizzi, another St. Rita product, are three major reasons the St. Xavier University (SXU) football team will play for the school’s first national championship in any sport in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) title game in Rome, Ga., on Dec. 17.
“Timmy and Matt were typical tough kids out of Rita who the big schools thought were an inch or two too short and 10 or 20 pounds too light. That’s how we got them. They weren’t recruited by the Division-One or 1-AA schools, but they were perfect for us,” said SXU Coach Mike Feminis. “We have a core group of nine or 10 guys who were preferred walk-ons at D-1 schools or partial scholarship athletes at the 1-AA level who are bounce-back guys. Dave is one of those examples who went that route and realized it wasn’t what he thought it would be, so he ended up here. I think we have about a dozen guys who can play at the big state schools, and he’s one of them. Dave is a big-time player.”
Marciano started his collegiate career at Eastern Illinois University before transferring back home to SXU.
It’s been a match made in heaven for him, his former St. Rita teammates and the rest of the Cougars.
“We’ve been through a lot together. A couple of us won a state championship together, and we also won the Prep Bowl when we were at Rita,” said Marciano. “It gives me a comfort level knowing that I’m on a team with people I’ve played with for a while. There’s a big trust factor there.
“There’s always been big pride in your neighborhood in this area. I feel like this is an area all-star team that SXU has formed. Most of us know each other from playing against each other or having mutual friends. It’s great to be a part of something like that.”
Marciano and Munizzi were sophomores on the St. Rita football team that captured the Class 7A state championship in 2006.
Marciano ranks fourth on the SXU team in tackles (67) and second in tackles for loss (8.5). He also forced two fumbles, recovered another and intercepted a pass.
In addition to playing on the same gridiron for several years, Munizzi and Marciano were travel baseball teammates beginning in seventh grade.
“It’s very comforting to have guys like Dave around. When I come off the field, he’s the first one there to pick me up or get me going if something goes wrong,” said Munizzi. “We’ve gone through so much stuff together. It’s great to go through this with the Rita guys and have a little pride in our school and the Catholic League.”
Ladd and Munizzi don’t get the accolades that the skill position players get, but they are still a big reason for the Cougars’ offensive success.
SXU is the highest scoring team in the nation, averaging nearly 46 points per game.
“I love the tempo that we run. Sometimes, I wish it was even quicker. When you get the defense calling timeouts because they are tired, it pumps you up even more,” said Ladd. “It’s nice to get those quick hits on offense.”
The effort of the offensive line hasn’t gone unnoticed by quarterback Jimmy Coy, who has thrown for more than 4,000 yards this season. SXU quarterbacks have been sacked only 27 times in 14 games this year.
“The offensive line has done an unbelievable job,” said Coy. “They probably played their best half of football in the second half [against Marian in a 30-27 victory]. We were able to move the ball because of them. They were dominating up front. When they give us the time they did, we have skill position players who are going to get open and make big plays.”
Ladd, Marciano and Munizzi have plenty of company from other St. Rita products at SXU. Sophomore defensive lineman Tim Beyer, freshman defensive back Jimmy Johnson, freshman offensive lineman Tom Hitz and freshman defensive lineman Tim Berrigan are also on the squad.