Aug 29, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
The theory went that once Cazenovia, the Section III Class B football champions of 2006 and ’07, went to the Class C ranks in 2008, the domination would continue.
But the complete turnover in the Lakers’ roster (just two starters were back in ’08) caused a small dip in team performance — enough, as it turned out, to allow defeats to eventual champion Westmoreland and to Bishop Ludden, the latter a 26-14 decision in the Class C semifinals.
Still, according to head coach Tom Neidl, it was a good run, one that underscored just how the strong the local Class C ranks were –a fact that remains constant as the 2009 season kicks off for the Lakers this Saturday at Altmar-Parish-Williamstown.
At least this time, Cazenovia has more returning starters — six on each side of the ball. And on the offensive side, that takes lots of pressure off the team’s new quarterback.
Off a successful tenure with the JV Lakers, junior Jeff Hopsicker moves up to the varsity job as he succeeds Carter Franz. Neidl said that, whether Cazenovia runs a traditional set or goes to the spread, the 5-11, 175-pound Hopsicker knows what to do.
“He’s very smart and understands our offense well,” Neidl said.
There’s a lot of experience at the skill positions to ease Hopsicker’s transition. Both top running backs from ’08, Chad Dorrance and Zach Golden, are back, as are top receivers Justin Hoffman and Tom Colligan. Doyle Judge could help at the receiver spots, while Ben Romagnoli and Dan Majewski share tight end duties.
By far, the biggest development on the offensive side involves a rare move from the line to the backfield.
Cody Foster, who started at guard last fall, has shifted to fullback. At nearly 6 feet and close to 200 pounds, Foster did not have to change his body type to make the switch. Besides, said Neidl, the team needed someone to block for Dorrance and Golden, and Foster could pull it off.
This leaves the Lakers without a returning starter on the offensive line. For the Lakers to reach its full potential, tackles Jake Ayer and Connor Ryan, guards Jake Adolfi and Tyler Gladle, and center Tom Toole need to gel quickly. Neidl said line coach Mark Evans has spent extra time making sure that this quintet is ready for APW.
As they have always done, the Lakers work out of a 4-3 defense. At both end and tackle, the Lakers will start a full-time defender — Travis Mims at end, Clancy Kemp at tackle. Meanwhile, Toole and Ayer will split time at tackle, with Adolfi and Ryan doing the same at end.
Sean Dougherty was an All-State selection at middle linebacker. With his departure, Foster moves from the outside to take Foster’s spot, with Gladle, Majewski and Chris Giardina all battling for outside spots.
Neidl calls his secondary the strength of the defense, for good reason. Hoffman and Golden have lots of experience at cornerback, as do Dorrance and Colligan at the safety positions, with Judge adding some depth.
In close games, the Lakers might have a decided advantage in the kicking game with senior Chris Rogers, who set a school record last fall by booting a 44-yard field goal.
Cazenovia has to deal with a shortened regular season with just six games, five of them in Class C South. Three of those league games will be at home — Canastota (Sept. 12), Sherburne-Earlville (Sept. 19) and Clinton (Oct. 3) — and the Lakers have rarely lost at Buckley-Volo Field throughout Neidl’s tenure.
The Lakers feel that there’s no reason to mess with what’s been a successful formula through the years, even after a 2008 season that fell short of a championship.
“The way we’ve always done it is to just improve each week,” Neidl said. “By playoff time, if we’re healthy, we’ll be a pretty tough team.”