Cicero-North Syracuse football head coach Steve Ellis admits that, at least once each day, thoughts of the last minute of the 2007 Section III Class AA championship game will drift into his mind.
How could it not?
Ahead 21-20, poised to win its first-ever sectional title, Ellis and the Northstars watched that dream get snatched away. West Genesee quarterback Tim Moran drove his team down the field, setting up Luke Cometti's field goal with one second left that gave the Wildcats a 23-21 win -- and propelled WG to an eventual state championship.
"It still hurts," said Ellis. "But I don't dwell on it. It doesn't bother me, and it doesn't bother the team, either."
What is of concern is how a terrific group of seniors, including Laquan James, Steven Ianzito, Anthony Dolson and Jeff Falvey, get replaced as the 2008 season kicks off Friday night at Central Square.
Ellis said he has a team that doesn't mind being physical, but that might have a durability problem, based on the fact that some players didn't go all-out to do strength and conditioning in the off-season.
At least on offense, new faces are everywhere. To succeed Ianzito at quarterback, CNS is turning to junior Ryan Lacey, who is the same kind of running and passing threat Ianzito proved to be. Ellis said that Lacey is smart, tough and carries a cool demeanor.
James, Dolson and Richie Lickfield made for a formidable backfield. It falls on quick senior Vince St. James (he runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash) to provide the big-play spark, with Tom Padula, Artie Cooper and Anderson Lovell offering help. Corey Barnes and Quinton Mitchell are likely to split time at fullback.
Don't be surprised to see Lacey throwing it often to Chad Dubiel, who returns at wide receiver. Two highly-touted juniors, Austin Hyde and Jaquan Jones, are ready to step up, with Nick Spadaro and Marcus Ellis adding further depth. Replacing Falvey at tight end is a taller task, but Justin Thompson (6-4, 250 pounds) and Austin Morris (225 pounds) are ready for it.