Aug 29, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
At the very least, the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill football team’s strong run through 2007 has ignited new interest in the program.
The Red Devils went 6-1 last fall in the regular season, second to Cazenovia in Class B East, before taking a 19-14 home loss to Marcellus in the first round of the Section III Class B playoffs, a game not decided until the final minute of regulation.
Due to major changes in the statewide enrollment classifications, Cazenovia, the reigning two-time sectional champs, are gone, moved down to Class C. On the surface, this would give VVS a greater chance at success.
Except when one accounts for the fact that more than 20 seniors graduated last June, forcing head coach Gary Oliver to plug in all kinds of new faces into the lineup. As a result, there’s a whole lot of position battles going on prior to Friday’s season opener at Phoenix.
It helps that 40 players tried out for the varsity squad — the most, said Oliver, since the early part of the decade. That depth will be necessary as the Red Devils undergo some inevitable growing pains this fall.
“We will try to put our best players on the field,” said Oliver. “Some are definitely going to go both ways.”
At quarterback, a battle has developed between Anthony Rocco and sophomore Tyler Mountainer to see who takes over. Oliver said that Mountainer may stay with the varsity team if he starts or, if not, start on the JV side to make sure he gets on the field.
The combination of Mike Jones and Mike Davies departed, but VVS is deep at running back. Two strong fullbacks, Derek Chmiliewski and Colin Way, are expected to pave the path for tailbacks Matt Richna and Dylan Guides in the Red Devils’ split-back formation.
Lucas Voelker, Jeremy Roden and Jamie Cielinski are in a heated battle for the two starting wide receiver spots. Likely, they will all see significant action, and might need to produce immediately, since VVS is quite unsettled as to who will start at tight end.
Just one starter — 250-pound senior guard Rob Borst — is back on the Red Devils’ offensive line. Everyone else is a new starter, from center Kevin Sullivan to guard Rob Spear to tackle Alex Webster. Kyle Reader and Dan Secor are battling to see who takes that other tackle spot, though both will play plenty.
On a four-man defensive front, only Chmiliewski and Borst are set in place, with all the other spots wide-open and likely to be rotated around before VVS figures it out.
Secor works as the anchor at middle linebacker, surrounded by Way and a pair of specialists in Louie Boice and Tyler Burton. Usually, the Red Devils have a three-man secondary, with Rhoden at safety, Voelker at one corner and Rocco or Cielinski at the other corner.
The departures of Cazenovia, Clinton and Sherburne-Earlville shrinks Class B East. Only VVS, Holland Patent and South Jefferson hung around, with Oneida and Chittenango moving down from Class A to fill things out.
Thus, of the five B East teams, only one will miss the playoffs, and Oliver has not tempered his team’s hopes despite all the new faces.
“We have high expectations every year,” he said. “I just want them to learn the system fast, make a contribution and get better each day.”