Sep 02, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
At least in 2008, and perhaps longer than that, the Liverpool football team will find itself boarding a bus every weekend — even when they’re supposed to be at “home”.
An unsafe artificial turf at Warrior Stadium, combined with rejections of plans to replace it with something new, has forced many Liverpool sports teams to look elsewhere.
In the case of the football Warriors, it means going north, to Central Square, for games against Corcoran (Sept. 12) and Utica Proctor (Oct. 3). And it also means trips to Solvay’s Earl Hadley Stadium, familiarly known as “The Pit”, for its Sept. 19 game with CBA and its Oct. 18 regular-season finale against Fayetteville-Manlius.
Head coach Dave Mancuso said he, like his players, are not pleased with the whole scenario, but are determined to make the best of it.
“The kids are a bit frustrated,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter who we play or where we play them — we have to focus on ourselves. We can only focus on the things we can control, and we can control whether we win or lose.”
Liverpool has won plenty the last two seasons — enough to get to the Section III Class AA semifinals on both occasions, only to fall to Rome Free Academy in 2006 and West Genesee (the eventual state champions) in 2007.
To take that next step to a title, Mancuso and his players have focused on building team chemistry through off-season activities like a March basketball tournament and a barbecue at Syracuse University’s football spring game in April. This, in addition to all the strength and conditioning programs the players go through.
No doubt, the talent is there. The Warriors took some graduation hits with the departure of stars like T.J. Davis, Mike Suatoni, Dom Caruso, Ricky Azzoto and Pat Single. But it also brings up a large group of players that dominated the JV ranks with an undefeated record in ’07 and want to do the same at the varsity level.
However, the face under center is quite familiar. Tyler Kamide returns at quarterback, an athletic senior and lacrosse standout capable of both big throws and big runs at any time. Mancuso said his poise and intelligence make him an ideal leader.
Greg Bell ran for more than 1,500 yards as a JV player last fall, and he’s eager to fill the tailback role Caruso once occupied. R.T. Metzger and Ken Howard will carry the ball whenever Bell needs a rest, while 6-0, 205-pound junior Mike Donitzen takes over at fullback, having already proven himself as a linebacker during his sophomore season.
Replacing Davis, who was nearly impossible to cover one-on-one, will be far from simple, though wide receivers Justin Albro and Kaleb Fleming will try. Track star Corey Bundrage (6-3, 205 pounds) and Jesse Gates (6-4, 235 pounds) will trade time at tight end as they inherit Suatoni’s old role.
Except for senior center Dan Wentworth, the Warriors’ offensive line is brand-new, in terms of starters. Brian Greene returns from missing the 2007 season to play at guard with James Schumacher, while Aaron Lebulis (280 pounds) plays left tackle. Alex Mashayekhski and Dee Harris are in a battle for the right tackle spot, and Pat Reason will play here, too, if his time at tight end doesn’t work out.
As part of a 4-3 defensive alignment, Liverpool has Shawn Chayban back at end, with Reason, Gates and Bundrage all locked into the end rotation. At tackle, Mike Stone (240 pounds) is poised for stardom as Harris joins him.
With Donitzen, the Warriors have a young but proven middle linebacker, flanked by Wentworth on one side, while Brian Doyle and Ryan Brogans see time, too.
Cam Jones, at cornerback, highlights a solid Liverpool secondary where Rashad Wiggins also lines up at corner. Metzger is likely to be at free safety, working with Anthony Salamone and Jim Wright.
Ironically, two of Liverpool’s road trips — to Baldwinsville (this Friday’s season opener) and Cicero-North Syracuse (on Oct. 10) — are shorter than the treks to Central Square.
Then again, the last time the Warriors won a sectional title 10 years ago, it did so playing home games at what is now Alliance Bank Stadium. It didn’t hurt back then, and Mancuso said his team could make sure it doesn’t hurt here, either.
“These kids know how to win,” he said.