Aug 26, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
If there is one constant in the Cazenovia football program – other than winning seasons and contending for Section III championships — it’s the constant shuffle, done every couple of years, between leagues and classes.
Following a long and successful stint in Class B (including back-to-back sectional titles in 2006 and ’07), the Lakers were moved to Class C in 2008, staying there two seasons, but falling just short of a championship both times.
Again in 2010, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association reconfigured the enrollment numbers — and again, Cazenovia moved, back to Class B, and into an East division full of excitement and intrigue.
Part of it comes from the fact that rivalries against the likes of Chittenango, Oneida and Vernon Verona Sherrill, generally dormant since the dissolution of the football Tri-Valley League, return in full force with the new B East alignment.
“The old-timers (in town) remember the Tri-Valley days, and it was fun,” head coach Tom Neidl said. “So it’s good to get back to it.”
Cazenovia’s players are also quite eager for 2010 to begin, especially after going to the Carrier Dome last year for the sectional finals with a 9-0 mark, only to lose to General Brown 27-14.
Many stars from that team, including two-way threats Cody Foster and Chad Dorrance, plus lineman Clancy Kemp and record-setting kicker Chris Rogers (now at Sacred Heart University), have departed, but a solid core of talent returns.
And that includes senior quarterback Jeff Hopsicker, who adapted well as Cazenovia alternated between a traditional I-formation with a modern spread formation in ’09 and ended up with 351 points, an average of better than 35 per game. Having an experienced and smart quarterback like Hopsicker, said Neidl, keeps him from having to teach the offense all over again.
That’s important, because a lot of new skill players surround Hopsicker. Xavier Coates, at tailback, and fullbacks Ian Majeski and Nick Petrovich are all expected to match the ground production of the departed Foster and Dorrance.
Depending on the formation, Jose Wells could run or go to flanker, while Doyle Judge, Forest Blanchard, Chris Schaffner and Chris Giardina give the Lakers a lot of options at wide receiver in the spread. Often, Hopsicker will look for senior tight end Ben Romagnoli, too.
On the offensive line, three starters are back, as tackle Tom Toole, guard Travis Mimms and center Liam Ryan give Hopsicker proven protection on his blind side. Niedl said as many as six different players could fill the other two spots on the line, but all will likely see playing time.
Cazenovia has prided itself on defense in recent years, and it might be tough to score on them again in 2010, as five of the Lakers’ front seven returns.
On the line, Ryan and Mimms make for a pair of big and fast ends, while Toole anchors at defensive tackle and a deep rotation of players could help him. There’s still a race to see who succeeds Foster at middle linebacker, but Majeski and Petrovich are back at the outside slots, so there’s time to figure it out.
Neidl’s biggest concern anywhere might be in his secondary, where Dorrance, Tom Colligan, Justin Hoffmann and Zach Golden all need to be replaced. Blanchard and Judge could line up at cornerback, while Hopsicker might be forced into extra duty at safety, though the Lakers want to make sure its quarterback isn’t exposed too much on the defensive side.
Replacing Rogers might, on the surface, be one of Cazenovia’s tallest tasks, since his strong leg gave the Lakers a scoring chance every time it crossed midfield. But with Judge and Nick Christakos, Cazenovia should be able to maintain a kicking threat.
The Lakers gave up a possible home opener against Bishop Ludden to play it Sept. 3 at 11 a.m. at the Carrier Dome as part of the annual Kickoff Classic. Thus, Cazenovia will not play at Buckley-Volo Field until Sept. 25, against VVS, as it follows the Ludden game with trips to Hannibal and Holland Patent. But it will host Chittenango and South Jefferson in the last two weeks of the regular season.
Despite all the winning the Lakers have done, Neidl said he never assumes his teams will stay on top.
“Every year the battle (for our players) is to come together, learn the system, understand their roles, believe in each other and play as a unit,” he said. “But until you get into it (the season), you never know.”