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Experienced Hornets gear up for title push

F-M still a contender despite loss of Austin Perez

Fayetteville-Manlius freshman running back Zaire Ashley jumps down the sideline versus Corcoran during a scrimmage Saturday, Aug. 25, at F-M High School.

Fayetteville-Manlius freshman running back Zaire Ashley jumps down the sideline versus Corcoran during a scrimmage Saturday, Aug. 25, at F-M High School. Scott Schild

— The way it has worked with Fayetteville-Manlius football throughout head coach Paul Muench’s 13-year tenure, every other year a new group of core players establish themselves so that, the following season, they’re poised for a championship run.

Based on that, 2011 was an evolutionary process, with the Hornets going 6-3 and reaching the Section III Class AA semifinals before falling to CBA. And 2012 is expected to be a year where F-M goes all-out for the big prize.

Even before it started, though, the Hornets suffered a major blow. During the summer, Austin Perez, expected to be one of the top wide receivers in Central New York, suffered a torn ACL, which will sideline him for the season.

That injury robbed senior quarterback Wolfgang Shafer of his favorite target, a threat to go deep and get a touchdown on every single play.

At the same time, said Muench, the timing of Perez’s injury allows the other receivers plenty of time to work together, and with Shafer, to keep F-M’s potent, fast-paced offense in high gear.

Shafer had his own injury woes last fall, dealing with a bad back by the time he reached that playoff game against CBA, where he played through the pain – but threw three first-quarter interceptions that doomed the Hornets in a 34-14 loss. Fully healed, Shafer could have a big fall.

“He really throws the ball well and understands the game,” said Muench.

No single player is expected to match Perez’s lost production, but the combination of Brandon Gesler, Brandon Davis, Tanner Carter and Dan Wyman, along with tight ends T.J. Wheatley and Nate Kadah, gives Shafer lots of viable options.

And if that doesn’t work, F-M could run wild, since Sean Bright returns at tailback. Bright amassed 24 touchdowns a season ago, mostly of the short-yardage variety, but Muench said that his ability to run inside or outside, and break off long gains, will keep defenses honest.

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