Aug 29, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
No one else in Section III found itself in the unfortunate position the Canastota football team dealt with at the end of the 2006 regular season.
Despite a 5-2 record, and despite outscoring opponents 223-137 in those games, the Raiders found themselves Class C playoff spectators.
The culprit was Section III’s tiebreaker, which is first-half point differential. And Canastota lost out to Mount Markham and Thousand Islands because those first-half numbers were skewed by poor starts, caused by a rash of turnovers, in the team’s pair of regular-season losses to Bishop Ludden (36-33) and Hannibal (54-7).
Eventually, the Raiders finished 6-3, and with a large number of contributors back this fall, third-year head coach Eric Van Slyke said his team doesn’t have to change all that much to return to the post-season.
“As long as we take care of the ball, we’ll be fine,” he said.
Offensively, Canastota could be more than fine. It returns all five starters on the offensive line and, in senior Kody Parkhurst, has a proven and experienced quarterback.
Parkhurst, a first-team all-Class C West selection in 2006, is 6-2 and 170 pounds. His strength, said Van Slyke, is throwing on the run because of a first-rate ability to look downfield. Don’t be surprised, though, if Parker just takes off on scrambles, too.
Protecting Parkhurst should not be tough, given the experience the Raiders have on the front line. All five projected starters are seniors and have enough size to overpower opposing defenders.
Andrew Bonaventura (300 pounds) and Chris Busek (255 pounds) both return to form an imposing pair of senior tackles. Guard Andy Barton (255 pounds) is back, too, while Mitch Prophet (245 pounds) assumes the other guard spot and Ben Rinauto (195 pounds) takes over at center, bringing some needed athleticism to the front.
Canastota has some choices in the backfield. Eric Cerio will start at tailback, with Anthony Tomarchio set to go at slotback. A pair of brothers, James and John Koonrod, will battle with Sam Stagnitti to see who gets the nod at fullback.
When Parkhurst throws, he’ll likely target Dan Sandford or Jon Siclia, a pair of experienced receivers, or Josh Lavoie, who starts at tight end.
Defensively, the Raiders enjoy all kinds of depth on its line, which is necessary in a 5-3 setup. Stagnitti, at nose guard, will have Bucek, Bonaventura and John Carver helping out at tackle. Devon Moore could be tough to block at end as Lavoie, Cerio and Josh Havens all compete for the other end spot.
Where Canastota has its biggest question is linebacker. Other than James Coonrod in the middle, no one has significant experience, meaning Sicilia might move up from safety to offer help. John Coonrod could start at outside linebacker.
Ryan Merrell is drawing high praise for his work at free safety and will also back up Parkhurst at quarterback. Tomarchio settles in at cornerback as sophomore Jake LaBarre pushes for playing time. Junior Shea Cerio could help, too, and he’s already a first-team all-league kicker, having converted 27 of 29 extra points a season ago.
Much will be known about the Raiders before the calendar hits October. It opens Friday with a visit from Mount Markham, who reached the Class C semifinals in 2006. Huge games at Bishop Ludden (Sept. 14) and against Hannibal (Sept. 21) could shape the Class C West race, and an Oct. 5 trip to Class A neighbor Chittenango was thrown in for extra flavor.
In two seasons, Van Slyke has gone 13-5, an exceptional record that, with all the proven talent on this year’s roster, could get even better if it can just hang on to the ball in the games that matter most.
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