Aug 27, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Things were going well for the Chittenango football team as the 2009 regular season drew to a close. The Bears had snagged a share of the Class B East division regular-season title and a top seed for the playoffs, with the reward a home playoff game against a 2-5 opponent in Solvay.
And then Solvay won that game 28-21, a result few expected — especially on Chittenango’s side.
Ever since, the mission for head coach Jack Hayes and his players has centered around getting back to the playoffs and making things right in 2010, but it won’t be easy.
The addition of Cazenovia and Holland Patent to a B East division that already included Oneida, Vernon Verona Sherrill and South Jefferson only made the league a tougher circuit. Worse yet, the Bears only get one league game at home (Oct. 1, against VVS) and must travel to the other four schools.
“It’s going to be a war out there (in this league),” Hayes said. “People are going to get beat up, so our depth will be important.”
Indeed, Chittenango carries a 40-man roster that includes 18 returning players, a group that includes junior quarterback Devin Christopher.
As a sophomore, Christopher impressed with an athletic ability that spreads across three sports (he also plays baseball and basketball), proving equally adept at finding receivers downfield and taking off when they were covered.
“He showed us a lot,” Hayes said.
The Bears could see an increased emphasis on the passing game in the early going, since it has to replace tailback Kyle Mills and fullback Dylan Furco. Brendan Galek returns at wide receiver and Steve Mesmer is back at tight end, with Brett Magerell and Brad Phelps likely to rotate with Galek out wide.
This allows Nic Bacon to move from wide receiver to tailback. Bacon will split carries with Jake Bicknell as both try to provide the same production that Mills did. A host of players are still battling to see who succeeds Furco at the fullback position.
Three starters return on the offensive line — Adam Donner (234 pounds) at center, Justin Henry (225 pounds) at guard and Aaron Jones (220 pounds) at tackle. Nate Fox, who checks in at 6-5 and 305 pounds, will be trusted to protect Christopher’s blind side at left tackle, while Derrick Furco (210 pounds) steps in at the other guard spot.
Jones, like Christopher, has stood out early in his high school career, starting on both sides as a freshman in ’09. Now as a “seasoned” sophomore, Jones returns at defensive end, part of a 4-3 alignment where Ryan Smith takes the other end spot. Henry, Donner, Fox and Furco all are part of the defensive tackle rotation.
Bacon, whose modest (5-6, 160 pounds) frame belies his toughness and strength, moves from cornerback to linebacker, where junior Tyler Chmielewski also has valuable varsity experience. Alex Carter and Jordan Berg move up from the JV ranks to help out.
Chittenango has a standout secondary, which allowed Bacon to move up. Both safeties from ’09, Bicknell and Mesmer, are back, as is Galek at cornerback as he teams up with Mesmer.
In case a game is close late and a kick is needed, senior Zach Drake is ready to deliver. Depending on the conditions, Hayes said, Drake could hit a field goal from 50 yards out.
One fun aspect of this season is the long-awaited return of Cazenovia to the schedule, giving B East a feel similar to the long-departed (and long-lamented) Tri-Valley League. What would make it more fun, Hayes said, is Chittenango becoming a consistent winner.
“We want to get this school as many championships as possible,” he said.