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Eagles move to Class C, could break through

Jordan-Elbridge football head coach Mike Smart spoke in understated tones about the travails his program has gone through.

"J-E has become used to overcoming obstacles," he said.

This has included, in recent years, a long struggle in the Class B West league, then a stint as an independent program limited in its ability to earn post-season berths, then a return to the B West ranks only to get overwhelmed again.

Maybe, in 2008, that all ends. A revamping of the state's enrollment standards has placed the Eagles in Class C, finally able to compete against schools with similar class sizes and talent pools. And this could mean a rapid ascent.

Looking back, Smart said the Eagles always put up a good effort against the likes of Westhill, Marcellus and Solvay, but that his players are looking forward to having a real chance to win.

"It (facing Class B teams) has been good practice for us," he said. "But it's time to take a deep breath and play some competitive games."

As the Eagles take flight in Class C West, it does so with more than 40 players on its varsity roster (49 turned out for practices), allowing for plenty of depth and solid talent on both sides of the ball.

Zach Frost, a junior, moves up from the JV ranks and succeeds James Hohm as the Eagles' quarterback, and senior Alex Fletcher could step in and play under center, if necessary.

When tailback Joey Poppe (who set the school single-season rushing record in 2006) got hurt late last season, Mitch Merrill took over and gained valuable experience. Now, with Poppe graduated, Merrill is the Eagles' primary running threat, with Abe Patrick and Clint Daniels also poised to see lots of carries.

Josh Livingston is set at wide receiver, as is junior Jeff Guadagnolo at tight end. Paul Jesmer and Jeff Donofrio are locked in a battle to see who takes the other receiver slot.

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