Aug 24, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
And the Jordan-Elbridge football team thought it was difficult playing its entire 2010 season on the road.
It turns out that the Eagles’ 3-5 run through last fall, with one “home” game at Solvay and a “Homecoming” contest at Central Square, was just a prelude to a strange off-season where its long-time head coach, Mike Smart, had to win his job back.
Amid the multiple dramas percolating within the J-E district, Smart learned that he had to re-apply for his head coaching position, including an interview process with new athletic director Eric Varney. Smart, along with his brother Pat, were approved by the school board less than two weeks before practices started on Aug. 15.
It’s a smaller coaching staff, with the Smart brothers joined by volunteer assistant Tom Leonti. But everyone, coaches and players alike, are relieved that things have returned to normal.
“It (the off-season issues) caused a little stress,” said Mike Smart. “But we kept the faith that, in the end, we would be back.”
And they return at an opportune time. Were it not for a close defeat to Syracuse Institute of Technology Central in 2010, the Eagles would have cracked the .500 mark.
Building on that, J-E gets further motivation from finally getting to play at home this fall. Though the Sept. 2 opener with Hannibal had to switch venues (they’ll now play at Hannibal), if all goes well the Eagles will be in front of the home crowd when it has a rematch with ITC on Sept. 16.
On offense, J-E will have a new quarterback, as Cody Lewis moves over from wingback to replace the tandem of Joe Gallager and Brennen Barrigar. At 5-6 and 140 pounds, Lewis makes up for a diminutive build by possessing speed and the ability to fake out defenders, something he learned as J-E’s point guard during basketball season.
The Eagles, said Smart, want a ball-control offense, so that means much responsibility for Leland Holmes, assuming most of the running-back duties after Nick Berwind and Joe Killeen graduated. Junior Colby Trexler takes over at fullback.
They’ll work behind a big offensive line. Mike Caspari, at 298 pounds, and Gage Thorpe, at 265 pounds, make for an imposing pair of tackles, and guard Tom Albring checks in at 280 pounds. Guard Frank Bartkowiak and center Ryan Hubbs are smaller, but just as effective.
When Lewis does throw, he might seek senior tight end Logan Smart, or he might look for two new targets, Joe Mills and Anthony Disanto, who last played at the modified level but spent recent years on the J-E soccer team.
With just 24 players on the varsity roster, many will have to go both ways. On a four-man defensive front, Bartkowiak and Mills work at end, flanking tackles Thorpe and Caspari. Collin Ennulat, a standout in wrestling, joins a linebacker corps that includes veterans Smart, Albring and Cooper.
Lewis, aside from his quarterback duties, also starts at safety, anchoring a three-man secondary where Trexler, Holmes and Adam Vanwart rotate into the corner spots.
Nothing for the Eagles will prove easy in a Class C West division where Skaneateles and Hannibal move in from recent duty in Class B, and only the top two teams in the league will get into the playoffs.
“We have to play our type of football,” said Smart. “If we can run the ball, limit mistakes and play good defense, we can be competitive with anyone we face.”