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Raiders ride experience into '07 season

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.

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