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Bees pursue glory in milestone season

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.

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