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.