Manlius Just like anyone else, the Fayetteville-Manlius football team is eager to take the field for 2011. Only in the Hornets' case, the eagerness is quite literal.
Decades of toiling on a grass stadium surface that, by the latter stages each season, was breaking down are finally over as F-M debuts on its new artificial turf field Sept. 16 for its home opener against Oswego.
Head coach Paul Muench, entering his 12th season at the Hornets' helm, noted how many times in recent years his teams had to go practice elsewhere, to places like Corcoran or Chittenango, because its field was too damaged to use. Now, that won't be the case.
"It's exciting," said Muench. "People in the community stepped up (through private fund-raising) and showed pride in the athletic program. Hopefully, our play will be worthy of all that effort."
Certainly F-M has a reason to feel it can thrive, whatever the surface. It went undefeated through the Class AA-2 division a season ago and reached the Section III semifinals before falling, 21-14, to eventual champion Baldwinsville.
From that 8-1 side, a fair amount of stars departed - John Wittig, Matt Moro and Ari Waffle on the offensive side, Brent Strickland, Louis Muraco, Sam Wells and Dan Murphy on the defensive side. But a lot of good players, veterans and newcomers, remain.
In junior Wolfgang Shafer, F-M may have another quarterback poised to start for two years, just as predecessors like Wittig, Zak Carter and Buddy Leathley did. With a strong, accurate arm, Shafer has a chance to thrive on the faster artificial surface, as the Hornets intend to ramp up its passing game.
Shafer will often be looking for Austin Perez, who as a sophomore had six touchdowns of 25 yards or more. Muench said Perez could get better if he adds possession receiving to his deep-threat capabilities,and he'll also return kicks and punts.