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.