Aug 26, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Changes in personnel are an inevitable part of high school sports. One class leaves, then another steps in and takes their shot.
In the case of the West Genesee football team, though, the upheaval is much greater, at least when it comes to the 2009 season.
No less than 34 seniors are gone from last fall’s Section III Class AA finalists that went 8-2, falling to Henninger 44-27 in the title game at the Carrier Dome after thrilling playoff wins over Corcoran and Liverpool (the latter in double overtime).
Many of those graduating seniors, including Joe Fazio, Jake Fietkiewicz, Ryan McConnell, Christos Dimkos, Stefan Cavedine, Craig Simmons and Kevin Petrick, played key roles in the Wildcats’ 2007 state title run.
This vast amount of senior leadership made the coaching transition from Steve Bush to Joe Corley a lot smoother, a fact Corley readily acknowledges. Still, he’s not discounting what a new group of stars could do this fall in his second year at the helm.
“These kids will be ready,” Corley said. “It’s a challenge, but it’s not impossible. We still want to win as many games as we can.”
WG has its third starting quarterback in as many years. Connor Zeman gets the honor this time, and though he’s a senior, Corley said that Zeman has many of the same skills and qualities that his successful predecessors, Tim Moran and Jim Marks, possessed — and they got just one season under center.
On the surface, at least, the biggest challenge for Zeman would be to find receivers as effective as Fazio and Fietkiewicz were for two seasons. The answer might be quantity, as Josh Phillips, Justin Capella, Tom Stagnitta, Pat Brown and Matt Naton all could line up in the slot. WG also has a strong pair of tight ends in seniors Mike Moran (Tim’s younger brother) and Turner Parry.
Meanwhile, Sirron Wright assumes the full-time tailback duties after seeing about 25 percent of the carries behind Jeremy Jones in ’08. When Wright needs a breather, highly-touted sophomore Sean Howard will get the ball.
Corley has two starters back on his offensive line in guard Brett Cummings (215 pounds) and tackle Nick Pedrotti (275 pounds). Senior captain Dave Elmer, who waited his turn behind Cavedine, takes over at center, while Justin St. Louis works at tackle and sophomore Adam Wierbinski steps in at the other guard spot.
With enough question marks about his team’s depth, Corley will, at least at the start, use many of his players both ways. That includes Elmer, who returns at defensive tackle on the Wildcats’ four-man front next to Cummings, with Dan Capriotti helping out. Pedrotti and St. Louis line up at end, with Mike Plony expected to see action, too.
Moran returns to start at inside linebacker, where Parry and Brown also should see action. Outside, Stagnitta and Phillips will see a majority of the action, with Zach Snow adding some depth.
Great as Fietkiewicz was as a receiver, he was even better in the secondary, shutting off passing lanes and making key interceptions throughout the last two years. Capella, Howard and Wright all will try to succeed him at cornerback, while Naton takes over the safety slot and Phillips offers support.
Following Friday’s opener at Baldwinsville, the Wildcats play four of its remaining six games at home, as both Liverpool (on Sept. 11) and Corcoran (on Oct. 9) look to avenge their ’08 playoff defeats in Camillus.
“We have work ahead,” Corley said. “It’s going to take some kids stepping up. They have talent. It’s just a matter of developing it and getting game experience.”