Aug 27, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
It all looked so promising when the Jordan-Elbridge football team shut out Tully 14-0 to open the 2008 season. At last, the Eagles had reason to think that promise and potential could transform itself into positive results.
Then Zach Frost, the team’s quarterback, broke his clavicle in the team’s third game, a loss to Cato-Meridian. Instantly, the Eagles became a one-dimensional offensive unit, entirely dependent on star tailback Mitch Merrill.
Frost’s untimely departure, combined with several other injuries, plus illness, ruined J-E’s chances, and it didn’t win the rest of the regular season.
Everyone has healed now, though, and it gives the Eagles a reason to think that 2009 will be different, with an expanded playoffs (16 teams, instead of eight), a regular season shortened to six games and just four games in the Class C West league to negotiate through.
“With less teams (in the league), it becomes more competitive,” head coach Pat Smart said. “Not until the last week of the regular season will everything be figured out. It will be exciting. There will be something to shoot for (at season’s end), which is different.”
What remains the same for the Eagles is that, lacking a JV roster, it will get to choose from a larger pool of players, as 48 came out for the first day of practice on Aug. 17.
None will be more important than Frost, fully healed and ready to tackle his senior campaign. At 5-11 and 165 pounds, Frost possesses a strong arm, aided by his years as the ace of J-E’s baseball team, and by throwing the ball, he restores the Eagles’ offensive balance.
Smart said that replacing Merrill, J-E’s all-time leading rusher (he went past 1,000 yards last fall), won’t be a one-man job. The Eagles will spread the carries between Nick Berwind, Preston Bishop and Leland Holmes, assuring that no single back will have to do too much.
J-E also has a deep pool of receivers. Jeff Donofrio, like Frost, missed much of last season due to injury, while illness sidelined Brendan Barriger. Donofrio, Barriger and Bob Gallagher all have varsity experience, as does tight end Jeff Guadagnolo.
The real wild card might be Tyler Richardson, who played in 2007, then ran cross country last fall before deciding to return to the gridiron. With his speed and skill, Richardson will be a threat on both sides of the ball.
Counting Guadagnolo, the Eagles have four starters back on the offensive line. Connor Smart (180 pounds) is at center, flanked by a contrasting pair of guards in 185-pound Sean Cooper and 285-pound Bill Tyrell. Joe Davis, at 6-5 and 215 pounds, is a tall presence at tackle, while Zach Goodson (215 pounds) is in the other tackle spot.
Tyrell also is back at defensive tackle. Aside from him, J-E prefers speed on its four-man front, as Goodson joins Tyrell at tackle. Cody Hopler (170 pounds) and Paul Nelson (175 pounds) give the Eagles a pair of quick and exciting ends.
Pat Smart call his middle linebacker, Clint Daniels, “Mr. Intensity”, and for good reason. The 5-10, 175-pound senior is the defensive leader, and with Guadagnolo and Zach Stevenson back at the outside spots (with help from Logan Smart), J-E could be quite strong here. Richardson and Barriger work at cornerback, while Donofrio and Dylan Johnson patrol the secondary as safeties.
J-E has just one home game in September (against Tully) and must visit league favorite Bishop Ludden on Sept. 25 before home dates with Weedsport and Hannibal. Pat Smart said the key to the Eagles’ 2009 season (aside from staying injury free) will be not to give in to self-analysis.
“When kids start to think too much and second-guess themselves, then you’ll be in trouble,” he said. “They just have to believe in themselves and in our system, and to repeat what they do in practice during the games.”