Aug 21, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Now it isn’t a question of whether the Marcellus football team is among the top Section III Class B programs, because consistent winning results over the last five years have answered that concern.
It’s just a matter of the Mustangs taking those last – and most difficult – steps to a championship, something head coach Joe Fiacchi and his charges are eager to do in 2012.
In each of the last two campaigns, Marcellus suffered a close playoff defeat to Cazenovia, including a 14-6 decision in the Buckley-Volo Field mud last fall.
Fiacchi said the line between contender and champion is a thin one, and involves avoiding mistakes as much as it concerns making big plays.
“To get over the hump, you’ve got to create some breaks, and (in years past) we gave away some touchdowns, which cost us,” he said.
Little might be given away in terms of the Mustangs’ defense, a unit that returns several stars, including senior linebacker Jason Decker.
This is Decker’s fourth year as a starter, and he has recorded more than 300 tackles since his varsity debut in 2009. Fiacchi said Decker’s biggest attribute is sideline-to-sideline speed, allowing him to chase down whoever has the ball quickly.
In the Mustangs’ defensive alignment, safeties move up to linebacker positions to stop the run, something that senior Nick Nye is quite capable of doing s he’s joined by Jon Cavaretta, who moves from the line to inside linebacker. Sophomore Chris Wood occupies a similar role as Nye, while Tom Keegan, Will Coons and Mike Raymond round out the secondary.
Normally, Marcellus puts five players on the front line. It has experience at the end spots, where senior Rodney Coffey and junior Wyatt Stehle both return. Pat Cooper, a three-year starter, is posted at nose guard, surrounded by a rotation of tackles.
Those same linemen are part of an experienced offensive front with four returning starters and lots of size. Juniors Steve Hogan (270 pounds), Bryan DeCook (300 pounds) and Tom Wagner (280 pounds) all started as sophomores, while senior Cullen Stubbs (210 pounds) enters his third season at guard. Cavaretta joins Hogan at tackle, while Wagner works under center and DeCook is at guard.
They will have to protect a new quarterback after the graduation of Kyle Hastings. Of course, Duncan Merritt is not new, having played extended minutes in relief of Hastings as a sophomore in 2010 before seeing mop-up duty as a junior. Now Merritt has got the top job, and will see less time at defensive back as a result.
Fiacchi said he wants a 50-50 balance between passing and throwing. It skewed toward the air when Will Fiacchi (now the starting quarterback at SUNY-Albany) was breaking every Marcellus passing record, and was 60-40 in favor of the run during the 2011 season.
At running back, senior Brad Kermes helps on both fronts, since he gained more than 1,300 total yards in his junior season. Equally capable of carrying the ball and catching short passes, Kermes will see most of the duty, with Nye helping out and Decker lining up at fullback in short-yardage situations.
When Merritt throws, he will look for some mismatches from his trio of tight ends. Stehle (230 pounds), Jamie Fiacchi (215 pounds) and Mike Hastings (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) all could go out wide or block from a tight end spot, while Coons and Raymond are more traditional receivers.
Knowing that a tough Class B West that includes defending champion Chittenango, Homer and Cortland awaits them, the Mustangs still came up with a pair of non-league treats.
Marcellus opens next Sunday with a game against defending state Class A champion Maine-Endwell in the Kickoff Classic at the Carrier Dome, and then renews its long rivalry with Skaneateles (now in the Class C ranks) on Sept. 20 on the Lakers’ home turf.
“Our kids enjoy playing our rivals,” said Fiacchi, also referring to league match-ups with neighbors Westhill and Solvay. “They’re happy that (Skaneateles) is back on the schedule. It adds flavor to what we do.”
What would also be different is seeing the Mustangs climb past the major hurdles and bring a sectional championship home after so many near-misses.
“It’s about time we started knocking on the right door,” said Fiacchi.