Aug 24, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A pattern has formed for the Liverpool football team that has stuck throughout Dave Mancuso’s seven-year coaching tenure, one that is pleasing and frustrating at the same time.
Each fall, the Warriors put out a solid, hard-working unit that forges a winning record and gets into the Section III Class AA playoffs. And each time, the goal of reaching the title game in the Carrier Dome remains elusive.
Not since 1998 has Liverpool played in the sectional finals, and the playoff exits have, for the most part, been excruciating for Warrior fans.
Take last fall, when the Warriors rallied from a 26-0 deficit in the first-round AA playoff game at Fayetteville-Manlius and led late in the fourth quarter, only to give up a last-minute touchdown and absorb a 40-35 defeat.
“That’s frustrating to go through,” said Mancuso.
To address that frustration, Liverpool again went to work in the long off-season, going on and off for eight months before the 62-man varsity roster gathered in mid-August for practices leading up to this Saturday’s season opener at Henninger.
Offensively, the approach will be different. Last year’s quarterback, Zavon Watkins, was a dual-threat player, as apt to run downfield as he was to run deep – understandable, since he was a multi-time state champion in track and field on his way to Penn State.
This time, though, Liverpool employs a more traditional passing type with junior Justin Capoto. As a sophomore, Capoto started against Central Square and played a half against Henninger, which means that the Warriors aren’t starting from scratch.
And most opponents won’t be centering their game plans around Capoto anyway, since senior tailback Jeff Edwards returns. He ran for nearly 1,000 yards last fall, capped by a 173-yard, two-touchdown effort in the F-M playoff game.
Edwards’ numbers figure to go up this season, especially with returning senior fullback Anthony Miller, all 220 pounds of him, clearing the way.
In fact, Liverpool has two big-time running talents, thanks to the arrival of Caleb Taylor, who ran for more than 1,600 yards last year in the JV ranks. With Edwards in place, the plan is for Taylor to line up at receiver to get his skills on the field, working with sophomore Matt Sala and Brock Barton, who was sideline for most of 2011 with a knee injury.
Dustin Springer, Kyle Cresente and Joe Duffus all figure to be part of the tight end rotation, working with an offensive line that is brand-new, but physically imposing.
Right tackle Connor Warren checks in at 300 pounds and guard Geoff Bell, at 290 pounds, isn’t far behind. Andres Kursar, at 260 pounds, is battling with Frank DelConte for the center spot, while Joe Grinnell (255 pounds) takes the other guard position. Ron Wilson and Dan Cossleman could split time at left tackle.
DelConte and Wilson also factor into the Warriors’ defensive plans. As part of a four-man front, DelConte is joined by Duffus at end, while Wilson and Joe Curcie work at tackle.
Twin brothers Dillon and Dustin Springer pair up at inside linebacker. Mancuso said that, with brothers, it can either be a serious conflict or a close bond, but with the Springers it’s certainly the latter. Ben Terzini and Dakota Inman pace the group at outside linebacker, though Taylor and Brock Barton could see time here, too.
Jerry Burwell, who lines up at safety, is an important piece, destined to see more minutes this year because Edwards, who also plays safety, will get lots of offensive attention and the coaches want to keep him fresh. Sala, James Wade and Chris Bochies are part of the cornerback rotation.
A reasonable early slate (Henninger, Cicero-North Syracuse, Auburn) is followed by a three-game stretch, starting Sept. 21, against F-M, Utica Proctor and Baldwinsville that will likely determine where the Warriors fit among Class AA contenders.
“Every (AA team) has a few great athletes, and a lot of good coaches keep it at a high level,” said Mancuso. “We focus the most on team cohesion and discipline. That makes the difference between really good teams, and those that are not. And sometimes there’s a little luck involved.”
Liverpool fans would say that it’s about time fortune smiled on them.