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Canastota football looks to contend again

Canastota football fans are getting accustomed to seeing sustained success at the varsity level under head coach Eric Van Slyke.

In four seasons, Van Slyke's Raider teams have gone 25-10 and have become regular visitors to the Section III Class C playoffs. That included a 2007 campaign where Canastota was 6-3, falling in the opening round to Thousand Islands 34-21.

Now all that remains is to take that deep run to a first-ever sectional title. To do so in 2008 will require the emergence of a quarterback to succeed Kody Parkhurst and the emergence of a new offensive line, since all five starters from last season graduated.

"We've got guys to pick from," said Van Slyke. "It's just a matter of putting it all together."

Entering last Saturday's three-way scrimmage against Oneida, VVS and Chittenango, Van Slyke still did not have a starting QB. Senior Ryan Merrill backed up Parkhurst a season ago, while junior Bill Marsh was the JV starter in '07.

Whoever fared better in the scrimmage was likely to gain the starting nod for Friday night's opener at Frankfort-Schuyler. Still, Van Slyke said there was a good chance that, depending on the game situation, both guys could play, since Merrill is adept at running an option offense and Marsh excels at operating the spread offense.

At tailback, the duo of Jake LaBarre and Josh Lavoie allow for a smooth transition after the departure of Dan Cerio and John Coonrod. Meanwhile, Sam Stagnitti returns at fullback after starting as a sophomore, equallya adept at blocking and knocking over would-be tacklers when he carries the ball.

Whoever starts at quarterback will have a pair of proven wide receivers to throw to, as Anton Motley and Dan Sandford return for their senior seasons. Van Slyke said his offense could flourish if Motley and Sandford can get catches.

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