What took place with Vernon Verona Sherrill's football team in 2008 was painful at times for Red Devils partisans -- but it might have set the stage for some redemption this fall.
With sophomores stepping into several key roles, and with what head coach Gary Oliver called poor chemistry between the players, VVS slipped to 1-6 in the regular season and finished at the bottom of the Class B East division.
Determined not to let that happen again, the Red Devils charge into 2009 with a lot of positive signs, from an increased commitment in the weight room to a strong participation at Utica College's summer football camp. Plus, there's 47 kids on the varsity roster, the largest in Oliver's six-year tenure.
"They've worked hard at turning it around and have a strong desire to win again," Oliver said.
That includes a core group of '08 sophomores who took plenty of tough licks, but are now juniors and ready to grow up.
Tyler Mautner returns at quarterback, ready to let fly. At 6-0 and 175 pounds, Mautner possesses a strong arm and may make the Red Devils more of a pass-oriented team in '09, especially with a large group of receivers in the mix.
Between Tyler Curtis, Aaron Owens, Jamie Cielinski and Anthony Rocco, VVS has lots of balance in that receiving corps, so defenders can't key in on one guy. Add a 6-4, 200-pound target in tight end Casey Henderson, and Mautner could really have some fun.
VVS has its entire starting backfield back, with Mautner handing off to tailback Dylan Guider and fullback Collin Way, the latter a 5-11, 200-pound force that could prove tough to stop in short-yardage situations.
By far, the Red Devils' biggest offensive dilemma is on the line. Center Shane Sullivan and tackle Kyle Reader have starting experience, but everyone else, including Tyler Wendt, Andrew Oliver, Nick Mieczkowski, Anthony Matt and Jake Voelker, are still figuring out where they will start.