Aug 26, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
West Genesee football head coach Joe Corley has seen this before — his team coming off a losing season, ignored, forgotten, not expected to do all that much.
That was in 2007, and every Wildcat fan knows how that season ended — in the Carrier Dome, with a state Class AA championship.
To hope for that same kind of magic in 2010 might be stretching the imagination. But Corley, in his third year as head coach at WG, said it’s refreshing to feel hungry again, that it’s preferable to the high expectations his first two teams had to deal with.
“There’s no target on our backs,” he said. “We’re coming up from underneath, yet our expectations have not changed one bit.”
What has changed, for the better, is participation. At the end of the Wildcats’ disappointing 1-8 campaign in 2009, barely 30 players were active. Now, more than 45 players are in camp, and Corley said their approach is vastly improved from a season ago.
“There are going to be growing pains and mistakes,” he said. “But they have a strong confidence in themselves and a swagger, and they learn fast.”
Meeting high expectations will mean that a lot of young players will need to play at a high level quickly, as the roster on both sides of the ball is dotted with underclassmen stepping into key roles.
That includes junior Matt Naton, who takes over at quarterback and also has earned a role as team captain. Naton moves over from wide receiver (where he started in ’09), bringing a different perspective to the passing game plus a unique combination of a potent arm with speed to escape the pocket when necessary.
In the Wildcats’ trademark spread offense, Sean Howard is the team’s primary runner, but he won’t have to take all the carries. Kasean Sparks moves up from the JV ranks, and Corley might give some carries to highly-touted freshman Nasean Howard (Sean’s younger brother).
Senior Pat Brown and junior Nate Flask, who once worked with Naton at the receiver spot, now are his main targets, while senior Zach Snow assumes a larger role. Sophomore Ted Glesener is another young player that could star right away.
Adam Wierbinski is another junior with enough respect to earn team captain honors. He’s the lone returning starter on the offensive line, working at tackle as Matt Nichols moves into the other tackle slot. There are no seniors expected to start on the line, with juniors Dom Belko and Seamus Shanley at guard and a sophomore, David Menter, taking over at center.
There’s depth on WG’s defensive players, where at least seven players are likely to see action along a four-man front. Wierbinski starts again at end, helped by Nichols, Dan Hillery and Chris Owen, while Mike Eunice, Kahari Alford and David Wassell rotate at the tackle spots.
Brian Scott leads the Wildcats’ linebacker corps, starting inside as sophomore Garrett Waldron is pushing Belko for playing time. Brown returns at outside linebacker, where Flask, Snow and Nick Sgroi add further depth.
Nasean Howard is regarded enough to grab a starting spot at cornerback on one side, with his brother, Sean, working the other side. Despite his quarterback duties, Naton, who played free safety a year ago, could still see action on defense, though Matt Petrick is a full-time option.
It might not take long for the Wildcats to reclaim the spotlight. It opens Friday night at home against defending Class AA champion Baldwinsville, then goes to Fayetteville-Manlius Sept. 10, looking to avenge the overtime defeat that cost WG a playoff spot in ’09.
Soon enough, Corley and his Wildcats will find out if being a low-profile, low-pressure underdog is the same kind of perfect spot it proved to be three years ago.