Aug 30, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
When the Baldwinsville football team lay claim to the Section III Class AA championship in 2009 during its 100th season on the field, it ended a two-decade quest to return to the top.
Needless to say, the Bees hope it doesn’t have to wait that long to win another crown.
There’s plenty of reason to believe that B’ville can repeat in 2010. True, record-setting running back (and Central New York Player of the Year) Malik Burks graduated, as did Niko Manning, Jed Clouston, Ben Messmer, Andrew Redmond, Matt Varga, Mike Guinta, Nick Alenciewicz, Raeshaun Jones and Curtis Stanard.
But a strong returning cast is back, and the work to earn back-to-back titles started quickly. In fact, the off-season conditioning program kicked off Dec. 1, 2009, less than two weeks after B’ville lost in the state AA semifinals to eventual champion North Tonawanda.
“(I told them) that last year was great, but let’s put it to bed,” head coach Carl Sanfilippo said. “That’s the approach we’ve had. And they’ve worked as hard as any group we’ve ever had here.”
What gives B’ville fans the most confidence going into Friday night’s opener at West Genesee is the presence of an offensive line as good as any in Central New York. It returns four senior starters after blowing people off the line of scrimmage a year ago to set up Burks’ big runs.
That includes Nick Robinson (275 pounds) at right tackle, Jake Margrey (280 pounds) at right guard, Ryland Jennings (260 pounds) at center and Matt Moreland (280 pounds) at left tackle. Not only are they big and physical, they have staying power, as evidenced by the many times it simply wore down opposing linemen in the second half of games in ’09.
Only the left guard position is up for grabs after Stanard’s departure, with Ryan Kelly and Joe Tanguay battling it out and two sophomores, Dave Sawapski and Luke Earl, ready to step in if the starters need a breather.
The task of replacing Manning at quarterback would have proven a lot taller had Casey Colligan not been forced into duty when Manning got hurt in the Class AA semifinal win over Corcoran.
Colligan started the rest of the way, through the sectional and regional finals plus the state semifinal, and according to Sanfilippo, “he did a great job running the team.” Now Colligan returns, and while he’s not as big a physical presence as Manning, his leadership skills are unquestioned.
No single running back could possibly match the 2,960 yards (the fifth-best single season total in state history) Burks put up in ’09, but the Bees will attempt to get somewhere near that vicinity of production with a committee of runners.
Ben Paprocki has the most experience in the backfield, with Antonio Peck and Parker Kiff also returning, but keep an eye on sophomore Tyler Rouse, who could is speeding up the depth chart. At fullback, Stephen Mitchell leads the pack, with Dave Middlemore and a pair of newcomers, Jimmy Lang and Tom Boyer, also part of the mix.
It’s up to Eric Tommarello and Collin Twombly to replace the productive trio of Varga, Clouston and Redmond at wide receiver, while Carter Twombly, Nate Stoughtenger and Mark Stanard all attempt to succeed Alenciewicz at tight end. Stanard is also the Bees’ primary placekicker.
Just as with the offensive line, much of the Bees’ defensive line returns intact. Only Jones needs to be replaced as Robinson and Margrey man the tackle spots and Stoughtenger makes for an imposing end. Moreland, at tackle, and Stanard, at end, are likely parts of the rotation.
B’ville returns its leading tackler from ’09 as Mitchell leads a solid linebacker corps. It helps, too, that Middlemore, who missed last year due to an injury, is back for full-time duty (he played at the varsity level in 2008) as Kiff, Rouse, Lang and Boyer all join the fray.
Few opponents succeeded passing the ball against B’ville as long as Guinta was working at safety. It’s up to sophomore Eric Anthony to fulfill Guinta’s duties, which is helped by the return of Paprocki at conerback. Tommarello works on the other side, and depending on the situation, Colligan could help out when not tied up in quarterback duties.
The Bees’ cause is helped by a schedule that doesn’t have any road trip longer than the opener at West Genesee (they also play at Liverpool and Cicero-North Syracuse). Plus, there’s four home games at Pelcher-Arcaro Stadium against Central Square, Nottingham, Rome Free Academy and CBA.
Regardless of venue, B’ville knows that, as defending sectional champions, it will get every opponent’s best shot and must be prepared for it. Knowing that, Sanfilippo said a fast start is crucial if the magic, seen last fall in mass quantities, is to be seen again.