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Northstars want out of first-round rut

Life around the Cicero-North Syracuse football team has never been dull -- but it sure has become repetitive.

Each of the last three years, the Northstars could only manage fourth-place league finishes, which have led to first-round exits in the Section III Class AA playoffs.

This included 2006, where CNS gave playoff opponent Rome Free Academy plenty of grief, only to suffer a 43-32 defeat that turned on two bad punts -- one blocked that led to a touchdown, the other a bad snap that caused a safety.

"I sure wish we could play that game again," said head coach Steve Ellis. "We learned from that game that we need to relax (in pressure situations), play our own game and limit mistakes."

If CNS finally breaks out of this rut in 2007, it will do so because the team's nice mix of veterans and newcomers will blend into a seamless unit that proves difficult for opponents to handle.

At quarterback, Stephen Ianzito finally gets his turn. He was the JV starter as a freshman in 2004, but had to wait two years behind Greg Larioni and, in the meantime, became the Northstars' top receiver a season ago.

Now, with Larioni (who holds most CNS passing records) having graduated, Ianzito is under center. Ellis said that Ianzito needs to harness his gifts o get maximum benefit.

"He has a very good arm and is just as elusive (as Larioni)," said Ellis. "What he needs to learn is how to make better decisions with the football, to not make the impossible throw. As long as he's consistent, we'll be okay."

A big plus is that Ianzito is surrounded by playmakers -- some proven, others ready to shine.

Laquan James falls into that first category. The senior tailback is a threat to score on every play as a runner or kick returner, with sprinter's speed and lots of quickness. Ellis is also high on Vincent St. James, saying he could be just as difficult to chase down. Artie Cooper moves from the defensive side to help out at running back, too.

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