The St. Dominic High School football program is riding high, with a prestigious honor and an increased number of participants.
The Tom Lombardo Chapter of the National Football Foundation honored the program, senior quarterback Gabe Serri and the team’s head coach, Blake Markway, earlier this month at the 30th Annual Scholar-Athlete Awards Banquet at the Missouri Athletic Club Downtown. It’s the first time the foundation has had one school recognized in all three categories. The Crusaders finished the 2020 season 7-5 and advanced to the Class 4 District 3 championship game. Serri was one of 11 recipients recognized as a scholar-athlete scholarship recipient. He was a two-year team captain who broke game, season and career passing records at St. Dominic. Markway received the Jimmy Conzelman Award, which recognizes the chapter’s Coach of the Year.
Bob Bunton, executive director of the National Football Foundation’s local chapter, said Markway was recognized for building a program based on commitment to excellence both on and off the field. The team grade-point average was 3.21.
Since 2014, Coach Markway and his staff have set the school record for all-time wins and most wins in a season, while increasing the program from 59 to 103 players.
“As our top program,” Bunton said, “we consider their commitment to academic success, their football performance and the character of kids — how they perform in the school community. All three areas they were excellent, great leadership — president, athletic director, coach and players.”
More than three-fourths of the players did not play football prior to high school. Since 2014, the team has had 27 Academic All-State Selections, nine All-State Football selections and two Sportsmanship of the Year Awards from the Interscholastic Association of Football Officials.
Markway said the program is enhanced by a focus on safety and development. “From day one, we focus on the fundamentals, give them a positive experience with safety as a top priority. We’re very clear on that with our communication with our parents,” he said.
Since the school has three levels of teams, players develop appropriately rather than being thrown in with older, varsity-level players.
Football builds a school community among players, coaches, managers, parents, administration, faculty, alumni and “our unbelievable students that make Friday nights a special event at Crusader Stadium,” Markway said. “There’s nothing like playing for your community in high school football.”
It’s part of the school’s pillars of faith, study, community and service.
As a school rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it’s important to show that. Since 2014, the players, after shaking hands with opponents, pray the St. Dominic Blessing with all the community members attending the game. “It brings that focus of why you’re there, because of our faith,” Markway said. “It’s how we begin our week at St. Dominic High School, with prayer. And on Friday night, it’s how we’re going to end our school week.”
Jim Welby, president of St. Dominic High School, was a previous scholar-athlete award winner from the foundation 28 years ago, when he played at Bishop DuBourg High School. Bunton noted that St. Dominic’s captain this year, Serri, was a true leader besides passing for nearly 2,200 yards and 22 touchdowns. For example, he persuaded one of his teammates to walk out as captain on Senior Night because Serri felt the teammate earned the right to do this for his hard work.
The foundation also awarded scholarships to two other scholar-athletes from Catholic schools in the archdiocese, Carter Edwards of De Smet Jesuit High School and Tyler Ridgway of Saint Louis University High School. The chapter has presented more than $750,000 in awards and equipment to players, schools and programs. Its mission is to promote the amateur game of football and recognize people that have contributed to the game in a positive way. Membership dues are $40 and monthly luncheons are open to the public. For information, visit www.stlnff.com.
Kenny is a staff writer for the Review and a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Oakville.