Warriors out to prove '06 was no fluke

When Dave Mancuso took over as head coach of the Liverpool football team a year ago, his intent was to build the program back to the elite level it had enjoyed for decades, even if it took a little bit of time.

As it turned out, the building process was a quick one.

Displaying an uncanny ability to pull out close games against quality opponents, the Warriors went from 2-7 to 7-2, going to the Section III Class AA semifinals for the first time since 2000 before falling to Rome Free Academy.

Mancuso said that even he was surprised by the turnaround, and openly wonders if the element of surprise is gone.

"We exceeded our own expectations," he said. "I don't know if we can do that again. We're cautiously optimistic, but we like the kids we have."

What Liverpool doesn't have is Lonnie Johnson, the running back who topped 1,500 yards last fall and, at times, carried the team's offense.

The hope is that a group of backs can match Johnson's production. Dom Caruso and Paul Stanzione will both see time at tailback, while Ricky Azzoto succeeds Matt Root at fullback, with help from sophomore Michael Donitzen.

Also, the Warriors need to replace Mike Buckenmeyer at quarterback, and that question remains open going into the regular season.

Senior Matt Faiello is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in 2006 while playing lacrosse. While Faiello recuperated, Tyler Kamide played a full season as the JV quarterback. Both candidates bring something different to the position, as Faiello possesses a stronger arm and Kamide possesses a better ability to escape the pocket and run.

For all the questions elsewhere, the Warriors are quite certain about what senior wide receiver T.J. Davis can do.

Also a standout in basketball and track, Davis has the right combination of speed and size to make big plays, as evidenced by the fact that he returned two kicks for touchdowns in last year's 43-36 double-overtime victory over Corcoran.

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