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HS football: St. Onge is defensive force for Cavaliers

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Cody St. Onge intends to go into broadcasting and describes his play on the field as if he were a commentator on television.

His enthusiastic, fast-paced banter makes you want to suit up and take the field just to experience the thrill of the game as St. Onge does every day during practice and, especially, on game night.

“I have a passion for football that makes me want to play as hard as I can, whether it’s practice or during a game,’’ the Immaculate Heart Central senior defensive end said. “I don’t understand players not giving 100 percent on every play. To me, that’s just normal.’’

St. Onge’s play on the field this season through the Cavaliers’ first three games is undisputable evidence of his zeal for making plays and causing havoc for opposing offenses.

He began with a spectacular five-sack performance in IHC’s opening 26-0 win over Thousand Islands.

In week two, St. Onge realized the thrill of a lifetime for a defensive player by returning an interception 12 yards for a touchdown against Altmar-Parish-Williamstown.

He ranks second in team in tackles with 24 (15 solos, 9 assists), has recorded 46 yards in losses with tackles, and has quarterback three hurries to his credit. That makes St. Onge, in coach Paul Alteri’s mind, “one of the most impactful players in our league, for sure.’’

According to Alteri, teams have found out in a hurry that they cannot contain St. Onge with just a single blocker. “Cody is seeing double- and triple-teams now because of what he can do. That’s been tougher on him to make individual plays,’’ Alteri said, “but it’s allowed other guys to be freer to makes some of the plays Cody normally would make.’’

With St. Onge as the linchpin, IHC’s stellar defense has yielded just 13 points and posted two shutouts in three games heading into Saturday’s key Class C North game at Lowville. St. Onge said he’s trying to develop new strategies every game to make a bigger impact with all of the attention directed toward him.

“By taking different routes to the quarterback, that makes me tougher to stop,’’ he said. “I’ve tried to vary my moves a little bit, and not give blockers the same look every snap.’’

At just 6-foot, 177-pounds, St. Onge is not a physical specimen by any means. But he’s as tough as they come, and tenacious to a fault.

“Sometimes we have to tell Cody to slow down a little bit because he’s going too fast,’’ said Alteri. “And he’s one of the few players I’ve had over the years that gets what we’re trying to do right away. Most players, you have to repeat it several times.’’

St. Onge explains his style very simply. “My No. 1 focus is on the ball, wherever it goes,’’ he said. “Against Thousand Islands, we stopped the run so well I just went to the quarterback. APW threw a little more quickly so I didn’t get as many clean looks at the quarterback. It’s all about causing havoc. If we can do that, we’ll be successful.’’

St. Onge’s competitiveness and attention to detail have made him one of Alteri’s favorite players to coach.

“He’s really hard on himself, even if he makes a mistake in practice,’’ Alteri said. “But Cody also has a short memory. He quickly forgets about the mistakes and just concentrates on making plays.’’

He played varsity ball as a sophomore, learning from such veterans as Billy Koelmel and Joe Spooner.

“Billy really helped me a lot because he played the same position,’’ St. Onge said. “I was kind of his protege and he gave me a lot of good tips.’’

Last year as a junior, Alteri said St. Onge “played a little bit under the radar because of our seniors. But he just kept getting better and better, and we knew this would be a big year for him.’’

St. Onge always dreamed of growing up to be a NFL running back. But he quickly realized his passion lies on defense, so he has been committed to that side of the ball since making the varsity.

Alteri said he could easily move St. Onge inside, to linebacker or even to safety “because he understands our defensive scheme so well.’’

He, and fellow seniors Miles Sexton and Mike Marra, have been teammates since playing flag football together in fifth grade. “It’s hard to believe this is our last season together, so we want to make the most of it and get back to the (Carrier) Dome.’’

St. Onge’s love of broadcasting has him looking at Ithaca College, Syracuse and SUNY Oswego. If it’s Ithaca, he may try to play football, but his focus will be on building a career.

“I like to talk,’’ he said with a smile. “It seems like the perfect profession.’’

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