Mike Feminis is beginning his 19th season as head coach of Saint Xavier University football. Last year’s 5-6 record marked the first time in 16 years the Cougars finished a campaign 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. Hunniford made the decision to transfer to Saint Xavier after spending two seasons with North Central College. He finished with over 1,500 yards passing, but suffered a shoulder injury his sophomore year. Coming into camp, coach Feminis knew the competition would be fierce due in large part to a quarterback who returns for his second stint under this system.
Alex Martinez, a Saint Laurence 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. A couple 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. As a senior in high school, Martinez unpredictably lost his father just a day before the Vikings’ next scheduled game. For many, the casual responsibilities of day-to-day life would be the furthest thing on the mind after suffering such a loss. 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, meanwhile, 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. Coach Feminis recruited Hunniford intensely after the 2014 season. At one point, Saint Xavier was the only school to offer him a scholarship.
Ultimately, Hunniford chose North Central, but the previous efforts from coach Feminis and his staff, allowed Saint Xavier to always have that door open for the eventual transfer.
Feminis waited until game day to announce the starting quarterback for 2017. Hunniford got the nod for game one, but talks within the Cougars locker room suggests both he and Martinez will see playing time this season. Hunniford put together an outstanding performance in his Cougar debut on opening night vs. the fifth ranked team in the country. Against Marian, Hunniford totaled four touchdowns to go along with his 425 yards through the air and no picks.
The Cougars defeated the Knights 32-27.
On the flip side, Alex Martinez got his opportunity in week two and made the most of it against Missouri Baptist University. In his first start of the year, Martinez completed 24 of 37 passes for 346 yards and six touchdowns.
The Cougars defeated the Spartans 48-13.
The jury is still out on whether Hunniford or Martinez will take most of the snaps this season. Although, one thing is certain, coach Feminis has two very talented, high-character athletes manning the most important position on the football field. For Mike Feminis, having two capable quarterbacks competing for one spot is a good problem to have.