Aug 25, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A new league alignment (again), a new quarterback, a new role for the old quarterback, a smaller roster – such is the state of flux for the Chittenango football team.
Four times in head coach Jack Hayes’ eight-year tenure, the Bears have found itself in a new division. In 2011, this meant a shift from Class B East to B West, which takes Chittenango away from close neighbors like Oneida and Vernon-Verona-Sherrill, though it will host Cazenovia in the Oct. 14 regular-season finale.
Hayes said, though, that this does not make the path back to the playoffs (it just missed last year’s Section III tournament with a 3-4 mark) easier. For one thing, a small junior class at Chittenango altered his roster, and the Bears start the season with 25 players, down from the 35 the varsity team usually averages.
Still, that includes 16 players back from 2010, including Devin Christopher, the Bears’ quarterback each of the last two seasons. But he’s not playing quarterback anymore.
To further utilize his big-play ability, Hayes moved Christopher to wide receiver, and handed the signal-calling task to junior Devin Phelps. From his new spot under center, Phelps could throw to Christopher or to his older brother, Brad Phelps, a returning starter. Junior Steve Billington takes over at tight end.
Luke Bicknell’s 1,000-yard rushing production will be sorely missed if senior Alex Carter, finally getting his turn after waiting behind Bicknell, and junior Kyle Zimmer do not pick up the slack. If either of them runs well, it will help ease Devin Phelps’ quarterback transition.
So will having some experience on the offensive line. Right guard Justin Henry (240 pounds) and right tackle Aaron Jones (225 pounds) return, joined by hulking 300-pound center Nate Fox. Zach Graham, at 220 pounds, and Nick Myers, at 205 pounds, start on the left side.
Chittenango tends to use a five-man defensive front. Brian Perriello, at 220 pounds, anchors the unit at nose guard, with Fox and Jones eating up space at tackle. Tyler Chmiliewski returns to start at defensive end, with Cicero-North Syracuse transfer Barry Seymour stepping in at the other end.
Since the Bears appear strong in the secondary, with Devin Phelps at safety and Christopher and Brad Phelps in between at the corners, the linebackers can take time to gel. Billington plays at middle linebacker, with Carter, Zimmer and Joe Gilona all taking turns outside.
Following Friday’s opener at Phoenix, Chittenango gets four of its remaining six regular-season games at home, starting Sept. 10 against Marcellus. The Mustangs, along with Homer (Sept. 16) and Westhill (Oct. 7), are tagged as B West favorites.
Hayes said that the constant division realignments Chittenango has gone through, in Class A and Class B, has not helped with continuity, for just when the Bears have figured out the tendencies of a set of opponents, they get moved, and the process starts over.
No matter who they play, said Hayes, “it still comes down to being healthy and playing good football at the end of the season.”