Aug 30, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
They’ve been playing scholastic football in Baldwinsville for 100 years. With that much history, there’s bound to be some lean periods.
Such was what happened to the Bees in 2006 and ’07, as it fell well off its normal winning form and missed the Section III Class AA playoffs.
“We hit the valley,” head coach Carl Sanfilippo said. “We didn’t have a lot of good chemistry. But the overall strength of our program allowed us to bounce back.”
Indeed, B’ville was more like itself in 2008, as it went 5-2 and finished second in the Class AA-2 division, earning a home playoff game before falling to Liverpool in the first round.
Now, as Sanfilippo begins his 25th season at the Bees’ helm, even better things might lie ahead, with 12 starters back, including a possible Central New York Player of the year candidate in senior tailback Malik Burks.
A season ago, Burks ran for 1,389 yards, averaging more than six yards per carry, and scored 14 touchdowns. And it could get better this fall, as Sanfilippo said that Burks’ increased work ethic in the off-season has been on display throughout practice.
“He’s come out with a real drive and taken more of a leadership role,” Sanfilippo said. “And he’s ready to take a beating.”
With every B’ville opponent expected to stack eight or nine men on the line of scrimmage, bent on containing Burks, it’s up to senior quarterback Niko Manning to keep them honest.
Manning has been starting since his sophomore year, so the experience is there. Sanfilippo said that Manning’s work while under center may whole the entire key to the Bees’ offense, even if Casey Colligan offers a viable backup alternative.
“As he goes, our team will go,” Sanfilippo said.
When Manning throws, he’ll be looking at a large group of returning wide receivers, including Jed Clouston, Ben Messmer, Andrew Redmond and Wes Lawrence. Nick Alenciewicz is back, too, and will start at tight end.
Burks might spend a lot of time running to his right this fall behind B’ville’s two returning linemen, right tackle Nick Robinson (275 pounds) and right guard Jake Margrey (282 pounds), both of whom started last year as sophomores. Tackle Matt Moreland (255 pounds) and center Nick Jennings (245 pounds) give the Bees four junior starters on the line, with guard Curtis Stonard (225 pounds) the lone senior.
While there’s few questions about the offense, it’s a different story on the defensive side, where the Bees allowed 177 points in ’08, 34 more than it scored — unusual for a team with a winning record.
Across the board, Sanfilippo said his team is strong in the middle of the defense, including the line, where Margrey and Robinson could be physically dominant at tackle. By contrast, four different players — Raeshaun Jones, Nate Stoutinger, Mark Stenard and Vito Zona — could find themselves starting at end.
At linebacker, it’s the same story, with Alenciewicz and junior Steve Mitchell well-established on the inside as Messmer, Eric Tommarrello, Parker Kiff and sophomore Carter Twombly continue to battle for outside starting spots.
Another sophomore ready to join the fray is Ben Paprocki, whom Sanfilippo calls a “phenomenal athlete” ready to start at either cornerback or linebacker when he’s not giving Burks a breather on the offensive side. Mike Guinta returns at free safety, with Varga at cornerback.
Opposing teams should not be surprised when Burks goes on the defensive side, either. Despite his offensive workload, Burks, said Sanfilippo, is determined to make a contribution on the other side of the ball, either as a linebacker or safety.
By the end of September, the Bees (now in the AA-1 division after realignment) will have a good idea where it stands among the AA contenders, since it hosts West Genesee, pays visits to Fayetteville-Manlius and CBA, then returns home to face Liverpool.
The vast history of B’ville football remains present, as evidenced by the former players that return each year to talk to the team. Sanfilippo said their main message is to not worry about what other teams or players might be doing, but to focus on your own work.
And that work, in 2009, could include a championship run — just another landmark for a program with plenty of them.