Aug 30, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Still working without the convenience of a home field, the Liverpool football team managed to work out a deal where all four of its home games will be played in the Carrier Dome.
And if the Warriors have its way, there will be at least one more trip to the Dome, when it counts the most — in November.
Three straight times, from 2006 to 2008, Liverpool has reached the Section III Class AA finals. Each of those times, they got beat, one win short of playing for a title.
From getting shut out 30-0 by Rome Free Academy in ’06, to getting beat by West Genesee each of the last two years, including a painful 41-34, double-overtime loss a season ago, the frustration has only grown.
Now it’s 2009. Is it finally the Warriors’ time to win it all — or at least get a chance to do so?
“We’re really close to being an excellent team,” head coach Dave Mancuso said. “This is a good group of players, and they have high expectations for themselves.”
And this remains true even though quarterback Tyler Kamide is now at West Point. While Kamide started the last two years, Cam Jones waited his turn. Now, as a senior, Jones gets to start, with a full knowledge of Liverpool’s offense and, according to Mancuso, a better ability to throw the deep ball than Kamide.
Certainly Jones doesn’t need to run much — not with Greg Bell around, anyway. At 5-10 and 222 pounds, Bell combines power with speed and is one of Section III’s top running prospects, heavily courted by colleges. Despite his size, Bell still runs a 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds, and with Mike Donitzen or Paris Stenson clearing the way at fullback, he has the ability to dominate.
“He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever coached,” Mancuso said.
When Jones is passing the ball, he’ll be looking for Rich Green, back from a two-year football absence, plus John Barbieri and Zavon Watkins, the latter a sophomore track star that could catch many of Jones’ long passes. Add to it an imposing tight end in basketball star Jesse Gates, and Liverpool has the ability to go to the air to take pressure off Bell.
True, all five starters need to be replaced on the offensive line, but Liverpool did the same thing in ’08, and still flourished. Guard Dee Harris (303 pounds) and tackle Vince Tesoriero (327 pounds) are the big guys, with Kyle Dalton at the other tackle, Brian Wilbur at guard and Jason Osborne working at center.
Think of Liverpool’s defensive line, and what comes to mind last season was Corey Bundrage tearing off the line of scrimmage, on the way to sacking an opposing quarterback.
Bundrage has graduated, but with Gates, Jaheem Hogan and Connor Rogers around, the Warriors don’t lack for pass rushers from the end spot. At tackle, Justus Stahrr and Mike Storie will come in whenver Harris or Tesoriero need a breather.
Donitzen, at linebacker, has started since his sophomore season and is the centerpiece of the Warriors’ defensive unit.
“He knows the system, can read offenses and is very physical,” Mancuso said.
Wilbur and Ryan Bragan flank Donitzen at linebacker, while sophomore Jordan Stenson is ready to make his star turn at free safety, part of a Warrior secondary where Barbieri, Watkins and Rich Green are expected to start.
Mancuso has kept a big roster — more than 60, to be precise — and they’ll all get their first taste of the Dome this Saturday when Liverpool meets Fayetteville-Manlius in the Kickoff Classic. Rome Free Academy (Sept. 18), Central Square (Oct. 3) and CBA (Oct. 9) also get the big stage at Liverpool’s temporary home.
In terms of taking that last step to reach the championship round, Mancuso said the key will be how this large roster meshes together. If nothing else, they are motivated by getting the rare privilege of working in a grand setting — one they hope they can return to at autumn’s end.
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