Aug 30, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
If ever there’s a chance for the Vernon Verona Sherrill football team to end its long wait for a Section III championship, it might be now.
Of the 41 players on head coach Gary Oliver’s roster for the 2010 season, 30 are seniors, easily the most of any Class B squad. Given all that experience, and all the talent on board, a November visit to the Carrier Dome would not be a big surprise.
Not since 1992 has the Red Devils claimed a sectional banner. It lost finals in 1994, 1998 and 2000, then endured some lean years before, in 2009, it all started to click again.
With a high-powered offense that averaged more than 30 points per game, VVS won the Class B East division regular-season title and advanced to the sectional semifinals against Westhill, only to stumble and lose 37-7 to the eventual champions.
“We didn’t put out our best effort (in that game) and made a lot of mistakes,” Oliver said.
Determined to avenge that effort and go all the way this time, VVS pins many of its hopes on its offense, which returns eight of 11 starters from a year ago.
And it begins with quarterback Tyler Mautner, who holds most of the school’s passing records and threw more yards than any returning quarterback in Section III this fall.
With a strong, durable arm and plenty of athleticism (he’s also a baseball standout who won a silver medal at the Empire State Games this summer), Mautner gives the Red Devils a decided edge over most of its opponents under center.
When Mautner drops back to throw, most often he’s looking for Tyler Curtis, a 6-1 receiver (and also a three-year starter) who is nearly impossible to cover one-on-one. He averaged 27.5 yards per catch a season ago, and nearly half his receptions went for touchdowns.
If defenses double-team Curtis (and likely they will), Mike Eichenlaub could find himself open as he steps into the other receiving slot, and Casey Henderson returns at tight end.
The entire VVS backfield is composed of three-year starters. Collin Way is one of the area’s top fullbacks, a big and strong runner capable of running right over defenders. When speed is required, tailback Dylan Guider can get equally productive results.
There’s size and experience up front, too. Andrew Oliver bulked up 20 pounds, to 245, while fellow guard Anthony Matt checks in at 275 pounds. Both are back from ’09, as is tackle Tyler Wendt, while Jake Voelker takes over at center and Aaron Oliver slides into the other tackle slot.
With few concerns on the offensive side, the main issue with VVS is how its defense will fare, and there’s a good mix of experience and youthful exuberance to work with.
No doubt, the team is set at inside linebacker, where the powerful Way and his running mate, Dillon May, offer a tasty combination of strength, speed and aggression. Four players – Andrew Aurigema, Nick Robb, Jordan Loboda and Eli Cleveland – could start outside.
Out front in the Red Devils’ 4-4 alignment, Wendt and 275-pound Jordan Reader play at tackle, while Henderson works at end with 6-4, 220-pound sophomore Brett Field, an exciting newcomer. Between them, Guider and Curtis could split time at safety, part of an all-senior secondary where Eichenlaub, Travis Morak and Aaron Pritchard work at the corners.
As it happens, the 2010 season will begin next Friday with VVS playing at Westhill – a chance for redemption and an opportunity to gain early-favorite status.
That’s part of an opening stretch where the Red Devils plays four of its first five games on the road, the only exception a Sept. 11 visit from South Jefferson.
An expanded Class B West division will be tougher than in years past, as Cazenovia and Holland Patent both have strong programs. Short trips to Cazenovia and Chittenango will precede two home games to close out the regular season against HP and Oneida.
Oliver said his team has to stay healthy in order to realize its full potential. Oneida, VVS’s biggest rival, used a similar formula in 2008 (high-octane offense, quality defense, a lot of senior experience, staying injury-free) to go all the way to the state finals. Perhaps these Red Devils have the same thing in mind.