Aug 29, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Other than the fact that the Cazenovia football team will have 20 new starters in 2008 and is situated in a new class with a lot of new opponents on the schedule, nothing has changed.
Transition is a constant theme in high school sports, since students arrive, then graduate and move on. But the Lakers’ transition from the back-to-back Section III Class B championships it won in 2006 and ’07 is particularly large.
For one thing, Cazenovia isn’t in Class B anymore. A shift in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association enrollment standards for football has the Lakers now situated in Class C for the first time since 1996.
Perhaps the switch came just in time, though. Gone are stars like Coleman Koesterer, Chris Nourse, Artie Bigsby, Ben Dewan, Ryan Kelly, Aaron Race, Lee Namy, Marcus Schokker, Connor Ryan, A.J. Berry and Pat Roszel — in all, 20 seniors departed.
“This is probably the biggest transition we’ve had to make in a long time,” said head coach Tom Neidl.
Cazenovia has just 31 players on this year’s varsity roster to start with, due to a smaller senior class. However, overall program participation remains strong, with at least 45 players on both the JV and modified squads. And Neidl said the team’s off-season conditioning program went quite well.
Neidl’s veteran coaching staff also had a small shakeup, as Paul Stoecker, who has been involved with the Cazenovia program for 46 years, might not participate this season due to recent heart surgery. Jay Steinhorst is still around, though, and last year’s JV coach, Mark Evans, joins the varsity staff as John Fontana returns to succeed Evans.
One thing is certain — when the Lakers travel Saturday night to open its season at Sherburne-Earlville, a lot of fresh faces will be in starring roles.
That includes Carter Franz, who is handed the task of succeeding Koesterer as the Lakers’ starting quarterback. Franz did play a lot last season — in the second half of games Cazenovia had put away — so he has some on-field experience to draw on.
And the same is true on the Lakers’ brand-new offensive line. Only Cody Foster, at center, is new and up from the JV ranks. Tackles Tyler Lawrence and Corey Marshall, plus guards Devin Howard and Joe Bono (the heaviest of the bunch at 270 pounds), all saw backup duty with Franz, which helps smooth out the transition.
What also helps is the Lakers’ usual deep pool of skill players. No single runner might match what Nourse did, especially the 281-yard effort against Westhill in the sectional finals, but it helps to have Mike McGinnis return at fullback to pave the way.
Chad Dorrance, a senior, assumes larger duties at the tailback spot, but Seth Goldacker, Brad Whipple and Zach Golden are close behind, giving the Lakers lots of options.
Dewan’s departure as the Lakers’ primary receiving target means that Sean Dougherty gets a chance to catch passes. But he doesn’t need to work alone, either, as Tom Colligan, Justin Hoffman and Mike Blanchard are pushing for receiver slots.
On both sides of the ball, Bigsby will be the most difficult player to replace. On offense, Bigsby started at tight end, and to this point the Lakers don’t have a successor, though Dougherty, Eric Goldman and Ben Bowers all are trying out.
Of course, Bigsby made his main impact as a first-team All-State middle linebacker, seemingly involved in every single defensive play. He’s now at St. John Fisher College, expected to be a national NCAA Division III contender.
McGinnis assumes Bigsby’s linebacker spot. Neidl said he has the intelligence and knowledge of the Lakers’ defensive system to succeed, and he’ll get help from Foster and one-time cornerback Dougherty, who will man the other linebacker spots.
As for the Lakers’ four-man front, Howard and Dan Taylor take over at end as Marshall, Bono, Lawrence and Jake Adolfi all rotate into the tackle spots. With Dougherty out of the secondary, Hoffman, Blanchard, Goldacker and Whipple could all see time at cornerback, while Franz and Dorrance operate at safety.
Newly placed in Class C’s South division, Cazenovia joined Sherburne-Earlville and Clinton in making the move. The rest of the league features tough foes in Mount Markham (a sectional finalist in 2007), Westmoreland (who went to the state semifinals in 2006) and Canastota, a consistent winner in recent years.
What has never changed, said Neidl, is the Lakers’ desire to win just like teams of the past, regardless of what class they were in.
“We still have great expectations, based on our long trail of success,” he said. “We have a sense of responsibility to carry on the (winning) tradition that has been built over the years.”