Mike Feminis is beginning his 19th season as head coach of Saint Xavier football in 2017. Last year, the Cougars finished with a 5-6 record. It was the first time in 16 years Feminis’ group finished below .500.
In an effort to avoid another disappointing season, Feminis was hard at work recruiting over 25 players to bolster his program in 2017 and beyond. Among the 25 recruits was quarterback Justin Hunniford.
Coming into camp, coach Feminis knew the competition for the number one job would be fierce due in large part to a signal caller who returns for his second stint under this system.
Alex Martinez, a Saint Laurence high school product, filled in nicely for the Cougars after fifth year senior signal caller John Rhode battled injury throughout last season. Martinez finished 2016 with a 3-3 record as a starter and threw for over 1,500 yards with 17 touchdowns as a freshman.
Hunniford, meanwhile, made the decision to transfer to Saint Xavier after spending two seasons with North Central College. He finished with over 1,500 yards passing for the division III program, but suffered a shoulder injury his sophomore year that forced him to reevaluate his future.
Coach Feminis recruited Hunniford intensely after the 2014 season. At one point, Saint Xavier was the only school to offer him a scholarship following the quarterback’s senior year.
Ultimately, Hunniford chose North Central out of high school. But, the previous efforts from coach Feminis and his staff allowed Saint Xavier to always have that door open for the eventual transfer.
Two local kids who were widely known for their triumphs in high school battled throughout spring ball in an effort to earn the spot as “QB1” on the Cougar depth chart just as they did in their respective catholic leagues.
“Those two have gotten equal amounts of reps since Justin got here in the spring,” Feminis said. “We knew all about both of them. They’re local kids with great high school careers. I wasn’t going to name a number one because I was going to let them go at it. They went at it, they competed, but they were deadlocked after the spring and they were deadlocked after camp. We met again and I couldn’t justify calling either the number one because I believe we have two number ones.”
As a senior in high school, Martinez suffered a personal tragedy just days before his team’s next scheduled home game. He had lost his father unexpectedly at age 48.
For many, the day-to-day responsibilities would naturally take a back seat when struggling to overcome such a loss. However, Martinez was able to use football to accommodate the heartbreaking trial in a way to honor his father.
The 17-year-old threw for 202 yards and four touchdowns to lead his team to victory the day after his father passed. Martinez would eventually take the Vikings to its first Catholic League White conference championship in 28 years along with a trip to the state semifinals.
Justin Hunniford, on the other hand, was named offensive player of the year by several outlets in 2014 after he led Providence Catholic to a Class 7A state championship.
Hunniford was largely responsible for the Celtics’ 13-1 record, as the quarterback posted 3,303 yards through the air coupled with 40 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
Impressive resumes from both Martinez and Hunniford has made the decision difficult for head coach Mike Feminis to choose a starter.
Feminis waited until game day to announce the starting quarterback for 2017. Hunniford got the nod for game one, but conversations within the Cougars locker room suggested both he and Martinez will have a chance to showcase their talents in live game situations this season.
Hunniford put together an outstanding performance in his Cougar debut on opening night vs. the No. 5 team in the county, Marian University. Hunniford totaled four touchdowns to go along with his 425 yards through the air and no picks.
This was a preview of one of the many stories provided in Student Media’s first ever issue of “Tbe Bell.” Look out for the full story in the student magazene on October 6th!