Aug 28, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
All the elements are in place for the Marcellus football team to finally deliver on its promise and enter the championship realm.
A veteran coaching staff, with Joe Goss at the helm for a decade, has steadily built a winning program that makes annual Section III playoff visits. At the same time, an upgrade in facilities, from a weight room to an all-weather artificial turf home field, has boosted participation at both the varsity and JV levels.
In Will Fiacchi, the Mustangs have the most accomplished quarterback in the school’s history, at least from a statistical standpoint, with several colleges vying for his services.
Community enthusiasm in Marcellus has never been greater, as evidenced by the thousands that turned up last fall for Mustang home games against rivals Westhill and Skaneateles.
Now all that’s left is to go to the top.
For the 2009 edition of the Mustangs, there’s plenty to be motivated about, especially after last October’s bitter 21-7 defeat at home to Chittenango in the opening round of the Class B playoffs.
“That left a pretty bad taste in our mouths,” Goss said. “We just didn’t perform (that night).”
And any time there’s a lull– say, during a rainstorm in the first week of practice — all Goss needs to do is show his players the tape of that Chittenango defeat, to fire them up once again.
So much of the Mustangs’ optimism for ’09 centers on Fiacchi, in his third year under center. He spent the summer traveling to numerous colleges, including Maine, New Hampshire, Albany and Massachusetts. Ivy League schools have also shown interest in the 6-3, 215-pound senior, by most accounts the area’s top quarterback prospect.
Goss said Fiacchi hasn’t made a college decision yet, but wants to go somewhere where he gets a chance to play right away. Before that, though, Fiacchi is working on consistent reads of the defenses, each of which is sure to be designed to stop him.
That won’t be easy. In seven regular-season games in ’08, Fiacchi completed 124 of 192 passes for 1,846 yards, leading all Section III passers.
Scott Cotter, the Mustangs’ top receiver last fall, has graduated. But Derek Belvito is back, as is Dan Rudy, who missed half the ’08 season due to injuries. Zach Amidon adds depth, while Chaz Hayes waits for a broken collarbone (suffered in a seven-on-seven tournament at St. John Fisher College this summer) to heal. Hayes might return in late September.
Ricky Alfreds, a junior tailback in his third varsity campaign, is a threat to get to 1,000 yards. Last fall, he averaged more than eight yards per carry and had 918 total yards in the regular season, preventing teams from honing in on Fiacchi.
“He keeps the defenses honest and, offensively, is a huge part of what we do,” Goss said.
Pass protection is emphasized on the Mustangs’ offensive line, where Zach Wiley returns at guard and Niko Wagner provides an imposing presence at center. Tyler Tormey could fit in at guard or tackle, while Joe Felicia steps in at tackle. John Drapikowski, Bryan Koes, Dave Breuer and John Howard give Marcellus even more depth on the line.
In the Mustangs’ 4-3 defense, Wagner and Howard make for a strong pair of tackles, with Josh Tucker helping out. There’s also a three-man rotation at end, where Drapikowski, Felicia and Keith Shields split time.
With all the depth on the line, Wiley (205 pounds) can move to a more natural position at outside linebacker, where his speed (he runs a 4.7 in the 40-yard dash) can be utilized. Jason Howard is in the middle, while sophomore Kyle Hastings and freshman Jason Decker battle for the other outside position.
If Marcellus has any defensive strength, it’s in the secondary as both of the cornerbacks, Kevin Daily and Steve Brisette, return to start. Steve Raven and Nick Huss work at safety.
Right away, Marcellus will be in the spotlight, as it plays Friday in the Kickoff Classic at the Carrier Dome — against Chittenango. That chance at playoff payback, plus the team’s Sept. 18 trip to long-time nemesis Westhill, will provide the best barometer of where the Mustangs are going this fall.
Going 7-2 last fall was nice, said Goss, but now, “we want to take another step up.”