CRANBERRY TWP — Butler resident Camden Laconi has a definite goal in mind — and he’s aiming straight for it.
A seventh-grader at Butler Catholic, Laconi played quarterback this year for the North Pittsburgh Catholic Ironmen, leading the team to a 6-4 record and the No. 1 seed in the North Division of the Pittsburgh Diocesan Youth Football League.
The Ironmen have three teams — developmental (grades 3-4), junior varsity (grades 5-6) and varsity (grades 7-8) — and the program was formed four years ago to bring Catholic football to the Northern Allegheny/Butler County Catholic parochial schools.
And give kids like Laconi a chance to develop as football players.
The new North Catholic High School is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014, Laconi’s freshman year.
“I love the quarterback position,” Laconi said. “The biggest goal I’ve set for myself is to be the quarterback for North Catholic High School. That’s what I’m building toward.”
He will return as the Ironmen’s starting quarterback next fall.
Laconi led the Ironmen in scoring this season and was one of the leading scorers in the entire 10-team league. He returned a number of kickoffs for touchdowns, including a 95-yarder, rushed for more than 100 yards in a few games, threw three touchdown passes in some others.
“I’ve coached seventh grade football for eight years and you don’t see many kids that age who can run a 5.04 in the 40-yard dash,” Ironmen varsity coach Steve Spotts said. “Camden is just so fast. He’s run back five kickoffs for touchdowns, two in one game.
“He’s one of those players that when the ball is in his hands, he could break it for the distance on any play.”
The Ironmen are only in their fourth year as a developmental program. Other teams in the league have been around for decades.
Two years ago, the Ironmen junior varsity made the championship game in only its second season, “an extraordinary accomplishment,” Spotts said.
To attract players from various schools, the Ironmen were formed four years ago as an independent team name with its own color scheme — modeled after the USC Trojans. After several informational meetings, 38 players and 15 cheerleaders signed up for that initial season.
The Ironmen won only three games that first year. In year two, the junior varsity reached the league title game. Last year, the varsity team made the playoffs for the first time.
This year, the overall Ironmen roster included 80 players and 30 cheerleaders. The developmental team — keyed by third-grade Butler Catholic student Carson Laconi at quarterback — went undefeated and outscored its opponents 188-0.
The junior varsity squad reached the playoffs and nearly upset the league’s top-seeded team.
The varsity team won its section title.
Coaches of the respective teams were Tim Brenner (developmental), Ron Balog (JV) and Spotts. The Ironmen play their home games at North Allegheny’s Newman Stadium
Ironmen alumni currently play for Central Catholic, Our Lady of Sacred Heart, North Allegheny, Seneca Valley, Pine-Richland and Riverview.
Now the new North Catholic and Vincentian Academy — which is launching a new football program — will benefit from the Ironmen program, as well.