Aug 23, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Carl Sanfilippo is quick to point out the chief reason why his Baldwinsville football team, in 2011, could not add a third consecutive Section III Class AA championship to the titles it won in 2009 and 2010.
“Defensively, we didn’t play very well,” said Sanfilippo as he watched his Bees prepare for next Friday’s season opener at Cicero-North Syracuse. “Our defense needs to improve. The smart kids are there, but we will see.”
Last fall, B’ville went 5-2 in the regular season, including a controversial 39-38 defeat to West Genesee in late September where, on its final drive, the Wildcats were given a fifth down to allow the march to continue to the eventual touchdown and decisive two-point conversion with just one second to play.
There was nearly a rematch with West Genesee in the sectional Class AA semifinals. But B’ville squandered a halftime lead and fell to Utica Proctor 39-21 in the opening round, and the Wildcats went on to win the championship.
When compared to the previous two years, B’ville did not see a dip in offensive production in 2011, mainly because of the presence of star tailback Tyler Rouse, who has gained nearly 4,000 yards on the ground in his high school career.
Now, as a senior, Rouse gets one more chance to display his lethal combination of power and breakaway speed. He bulked up from 180 to 194 pounds in the off-season, likely knowing that, as in the past, every opponent will center their defensive game plans around containing him.
It helps that Rouse has more experience on the front line to pave the way. Three starters return, including guards Luke Earle (245 pounds) and Mo Bouvia (260 pounds) and center David Sawatzke (270 pounds). A promising sophomore, Marcell Penfield (270 pounds), steps into one of the tackle spots, with Jacob Geer (255 pounds) on the other side.
Aside from the usual amount of time in the weight room, Sanfilippo said his players also put a greater emphasis on performance training in the winter, spring and summer, working as much on speed and agility as on power. The result is a 50-man roster that, on the eve of Saturday’s scrimmage against Central Square, did not have a single injury to report.
That could allow Rouse to get a breather from time to time. When he does, two other backs, Ricky Sparks and Brian Mahar, will see some action, while Matt Paddock returns at the crucial fullback position, backed up by Matt Hartwell and Cole Burchill.
B’ville still has a good competition going as to who will succeed Augie Zona at quarterback. Josh Demoski and Gage Blaise are both taking snaps, and when the Bees throw the ball, veteran receivers Joe Stanard and Shay Sargeant are the main targets.
All of that will not matter much, of course, if the defense doesn’t make the sort of key plays that were so commonplace during the championship years.
There is lots of size on B’ville’s four-man front, where 280-pound Jakeeth Jackson and 315-pound Alfonso Whitehurst will cause all sorts of match-up problems at tackle, while Penfield and Justin Weeks start at end.
Facing all kinds of sophisticated passing attacks, the Bees need to have some speed in the secondary, and get it from Sparks and Sargeant at the corners, while Eric Anthony returns to start at safety.
In front of them is a group of linebackers that, according to Sanfilippo, are “not All-Americans, but they are solid.” That includes Paddock, Hartwell, Burchill and Stanard, a quartet featured on both sides of the ball. Dean Tortellette is back to handle kicking duties.
A shuffle in the Class AA-1 division leaves B’ville alongside Proctor, Liverpool, Fayetteville-Manlius, Rome Free Academy and Auburn. The Bees don’t get a chance for revenge against the Raiders until Oct. 12, the regular-season finale, and start with non-league games against C-NS and Henninger.
Sanfilippo said his optimism for 2012 stems from the way his players have bonded, both in the off-season and through the grind of August practices in the summer sun.
“This team has got real good chemistry,” he said. “They have fun and enjoy each other’s company.”
One sign of that camaraderie was the way practice wrapped up on the Thursday before the Central Square scrimmage. It was nothing but pass plays in a two-minute drill, and when a long pass was completed, the cheers from the players echoed any seen when Rouse breaks off a big run.
More of this, and B’ville might have fun all the way into November.