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.