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Hornets ready for any challenge

To be certain, the Fayetteville-Manlius football team has serious work to do, and major challenges it must overcome, to achieve all of its goals in 2007.

But if any team is ready for it, the Hornets are.

In the course of the 2006 campaign, F-M played seven of its nine games against opponents that were, or would be, in the state Class AA rankings.

Despite this, the Hornets overcame an 0-3 start, fought its way into the Section III playoffs, then jolted the entire Central New York football scene by shocking two-time defending champion CBA 43-35 in the opening round.

Eight days later, the season ended with a 21-14 loss to Auburn, who was on its way to an improbable state title, in a game not decided until the final play.

Head coach Paul Muench said his team experienced every possible challenge a season ago and, as such, is perfectly prepared for the road ahead.

"We're not going to see anything better than that (our 2006 schedule)," he said. "And we've become the type of program that, if we play well, we have a shot at a championship."

F-M has a full plate of experienced players -- more than 25 seniors, in fact, on a 53-man roster. More importantly, one of those seniors works under center.

Buddy Leathley's progress last fall reflected that of his team -- measured at first, then rapid and transforming. By season's end, he had become one of the area's top passers, as he showed with his fine performance in the CBA playoff win.

Muench said that Leathley could be even better than F-M predecessors Zak Carter and Isaac Bailey because he learned plenty from watching both of them as he grew up, then applied his own talents to round out the package.

"The kid is just a force and a great competitor," said Muench. "You want him in a big game."

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