Football Preview: Changes obvious, but Hogan has barely begun at O’Hara

MARPLE >> When B.J. Hogan became Cardinal O’Hara’s head coach last November, he didn’t want to waste too much time getting acclimated in his new position.

Once he got settled in, Hogan made himself available to his players. It was a welcoming sight in the hallways.

“It felt good to see the coach around school again,” senior captain Anthony Amoroso said.

And Hogan was thrilled to be back.

A three-sport All-Delco at O’Hara in the early-2000s, Hogan left a cushy assistant coach position at Tennessee-Chattanooga to head football operations at his alma mater.

“He’s trying to get us back to where it was when he was here,” Amoroso said.

Hogan would be the first to admit, though, that leading the Lions back to prominence is a task he cannot accomplish by his lonesome. It’s why Hogan was compelled to hire the best assistants he could find. Jim Connor left his tenured position at Strath Haven to become the defensive coordinator. Mike Connor, Jim’s son, is also on board. Another former Strath Haven great, Isaac “Ike” Jones, who played briefly with the Indianapolis Colts in 1999-2000, is Hogan’s wide receivers and defensive backs coach.

“That’s why it was so important to hire some awesome coaches,” Hogan said. “I have some outrageous expectations.”

It takes more than a pair of blockers to slow down Cardinal O'Hara defensive tackle Des Holmes, center, at a recent practice. (Times Staff/Rick Kauffman)
It takes more than a pair of blockers to slow down Cardinal O’Hara defensive tackle Des Holmes, center, at a recent practice. (Times Staff/Rick Kauffman)

Hogan’s day job is director of alumni at the high school, which enables him to interact with his players. He stresses accountability and respect. The little things, he says, such as making sure your shirt tail is tucked in at all times, make a world of difference. Hogan represents a fresh start for Cardinal O’Hara football just 14 months after its beloved former head coach Dan Algeo died suddenly. The Lions struggled to a 1-9 record in a challenging transition season.

Ambrosio and senior teammate Jim Tulskie are relieved to get the 2015 campaign under way. And there’s excitement about O’Hara football again.

“The total dynamic of the locker room has changed,” said Tulskie, a tight end/linebacker. “Not as many people are out there goofing around. There’s a focus on football instead of things outside of football. We’re not dreading practice anymore … and we’re having fun. We’re learning something each day and we all look forward to coming out here and working as a team.”

Amoroso is the anchor of the offensive line at center, transitioning from the tackle position. Des Holmes, a 6-4, 290-pound monster, has tremendous upside.

“I like our lines,” said Holmes, who saw playing time last year after transferring in from Norristown High. “We are getting our minds right and preparing mentally and physically.”

Tulskie will block for and catch passes from new quarterback Tommy O’Hara. Yes … the Lions have a quarterback with the last name O’Hara.

“That’s destiny,” Tulskie said with a smile.

Based on the vibe and energy in camp, the entire atmosphere at O’Hara has changed for the better. Hogan was the perfect man to take over the reins, and his background as a college coach cannot be understated. Hogan played a role in the school’s hiring of a strength and conditioning coach. In the community, Hogan has made the rounds at feeder parishes, getting to know future O’Hara football players and their families. He installed a strict social media policy, a trend that many schools in Delco have decided to adopt. Hogan is also teaching his players how to conduct themselves with humility and grace in postgame interviews with reporters.

“It’s an investment to understand that this is how they’re going to get better,” Hogan said. “There’s going to be accountability. You don’t want to see the same issues day after day.”

Amoroso and Tulskie have the most experience on the team. The majority of Lions are varsity newcomers, excluding junior running back Myles Henderson, whom Hogan expects to be an integral part of the offense.

“We’re going to be simple,” said Hogan, who will call the plays. “We’ll run a handful of plays from different formations. It’s more about blocking and tackling and technique. We can run a bunch of plays, but if we don’t do it correctly we won’t be very good.”

Hogan doesn’t accept mediocrity, even in his first year running the show. He referenced Catholic League superpowers Archbishop Wood and Saint Joseph’s Prep and believes he can take O’Hara to a similar level in a few years.

“We’re seeing improvements already,” Tulskie said. “I like when he said to us, ‘trust the process.’ It’s about getting better each day and that’s what we’re out here doing.

“It’s not pressure to us. It’s our goal to get better.”

This story appears in the Delco Times Football Preview, available on newsstands Friday.

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