With a large and talented returning cast, plus hunger gained from a string of close calls last autumn, the Chittenango football team carries high ambition into the 2008 season.
Only it won't do so in the same neighborhood.
After a long stint in Section III's Class A ranks, a revamping of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association's enrollment standards means that the Bears now play in Class B. According to head coach Jack Hayes, this brings Chittenango more in line with schools with similar enrollment.
It wasn't for competitive reasons. True, the Bears went 2-7 in the 2007 campaign, but four of those losses were by a touchdown or less, perhaps a byproduct of a youthful lineup still figuring out how to close out games.
Now, said Hayes, his 30-man varsity roster is primed for a breakthrough.
"They are excited and fired up and know they can play," he said.
Chittenango lost just two offensive starters to graduation, but took a major hit when Jim Swagler, a strong 260-pound junior projected to start at tackle, broke his leg in the first day of full-contact drills Aug. 23. He is out for the season.
Another junior, Rich Moore (224 pounds), replaces Swagler, while Josh Wright (230 pounds) returns at the other tackle spot. Kyle Schiedo (200 pounds) starts at center, flanked by his brother, Ryan Schiedo (190 pounds), and Jordan Barber (215 pounds), who are an experienced pair of guards.
Together, this veteran line is assigned to protect senior quarterback Jon Stevens, who has started under center since late in the 2006 season. He led the Class A American division with more than 1,000 passing yards a season ago and heads a well-balanced attack.
Andy Moth returns as Stevens' primary target at wide receiver. Two other seniors, Adam Wayne and Cody Skinner, will battle for time at the other receiver slot. At tight end, Nick Boysen succeeds Shaun St. Onge.