Aug 28, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
In the great football tradition, Cicero-North Syracuse has touted a theme, suitable for a T-shirt, during practices for the 2010 season that starts Friday night at Christian Brothers Academy — “The Last Play”.
But it came about in a matter that no Northstars player, coach or fan ever wanted.
On Aug. 10, six days before practices got underway, during a seven-on-seven non-contact drill on the Bragman Stadium turf, returning senior Blake Monday made a routine cut — and his knee gave way. It was diagnosed as a torn ACL, and Monday was out for the season.
To call this loss devastating might be an understatement. Monday was, according to CNS head coach Steve Ellis, “the best player on the team”, expected to start at tailback and cornerback and return both punts and kicks. His presence on the field was crucial, given that the Northstars had to replace most of its other skill players from 2009.
“He was our main guy, a terrific leader and first-class kid,” Ellis said. “You couldn’t find anything wrong with him, on and off the field.”
Now, in a split-second, that was gone — but Monday has handled it well, Ellis said. He has attended every practice and, like an assistant coach, has offered all kinds of pointers to the players saddled with the unenviable task of filling his void.
He also gave the Northstars that “Last Play” mantra — as in, every play could be the last one, so make it count.
“You never know when that (last play) could happen, so you’ve got to give a full effort all the time and leave it all out there,” Ellis said.
Monday’s injury just added to the frustrations CNS has felt, which date back to last year’s double-overtime loss to Corcoran in the Class AA playoffs. Overcoming those frustrations will require a host of new players to assume larger roles in a hurry.
Four different running backs will try and match what Monday could offer by himself. Matt Ryle, sophomore Mark Broughton and basketball star Vaughndell Brantley slide in at tailback, with Ricky Barnes returning to start at fullback as Alec Hulchanski moves up from the JV ranks to help out.
At quarterback, the race to succeed Ryan Lacey continues among a pair of juniors. Corey Scanlon moves up after two seasons starting under center for the JV Northstars, while baseball star Joe Pokrentowski brings a strong left arm to the field. Avery Yarn is involved, too, with Jordan Ramos taking snaps in “Wildcat” formations.
To replace the wide receiver trio of Jaiqwan Jones, Austin Hyde and Mike Logudice, CNS will look partially to Bobby Doxtater and Emanuel Henderson, neither of whom played football in 2009. Andrew Johnson, Matt Strzelecki, Geige Dziados and Nick Spadaro are involved, too. Expect a lot of throws to returning tight end Cameron Doray, starting ahead of Austin George and Nate Henry.
Doray anchors an offensive line with four of six starters returning. Tawone Williams, all 336 pounds of him, takes up lots of space at tackle, while Jack Hotaling and Ariel Anoceto make for a strong pair of guards. Brian Pitonzo inherits the other tackle spot, while Brian Pitonzo steps in at center. Matt Fancher, Donovan Kims and Colin Cunningham back them up.
CNS is also quite strong up the defensive middle. Not only does Wiliams return at nose tackle, but all three starting linebackers — Barnes, Mike Parody and Branden Lacey — are back. Their presence will force teams to go outside to look for yards, where they won’t always be found.
On the line, Strzelecki and Doray are fighting for playing time, while Tyler Hemingway assumes a larger role and Shawn Cushman should play, too. At linebacker, Brantley, Hulchanski and Ramos join junior Zach Waldron in the outside rotation.
As with the offense, it will take several players, including Dziados, Doxtater, Henderson and Ryal, to work at cornerback in Monday’s absence. There’s a new group at safety, too, where Yarn, Broughton and Caleb Dadey will battle.
At the kicker spot, where Andrew Falvey was a mainstay for three years, sophomore Steve Messur gets his turn after two seasons of grooming at the JV level.
With the interior lines in place, Ellis said the Northstars’ biggest is finding skill players that can make big contributions — which is a tall order since, with Monday out, none of them had made an impact at the varsity level.
“Hopefully, these young kids can emerge as playmakers,” he said. “In 2009, we played as a team. These guys need to be the same way.”
Right down to the last play, whenever that may be.