Aug 22, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
All went as planned for Cazenovia’s football team for eight games and 43 minutes as, last autumn, it remained undefeated and appeared on its way to defending its Section III Class B championship it won in 2010.
But it was those other five minutes that derailed the whole plan.
For that was how long it took Oneida to erase a double-digit deficit, score two touchdowns and stun the Lakers 12-10 in the Class B semifinal, a result that, according to long-time head coach Tom Neidl, was one of the most surprising and painful in the program’s history.
“That was a hard way to end,” said Neidl. “The kids weren’t satisfied at all.”
As it seeks to regain the satisfaction that only a sectional title can offer, in 2012 Cazenovia will benefit from having four home games, starting on Saturday when Class B East division rival Vernon-Verona-Sherrill pays a visit to Buckley-Volo Field.
There’s also the benefit of a larger roster, with 38 players, up from last year’s total of 31. That gives the Lakers the luxury of depth in case a key injury or two would take place.
Cazenovia can also take relief from having a deep and dangerous running attack around which to center its offensive attack.
It begins with Jake Wilson, a returning senior tailback. He pushed 1,000 yards a season ago and averaged more than nine yards per carry. Just 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, Wilson can use his cutback skills to make tacklers grasp air and turn short gains into long ones.
Whenever Wilson needs a breather, junior Andrew Vogl, at 6-1 and 150 pounds, can step in, giving the Lakers two experienced and proven backs. Mike Nourse is likely to line up at fullback.
The presence of Wilson and Vogl allows Neidl some time to figure out which of three players will take over at quarterback for the departed Tanner Whiteman. Junior Kevin Hopsicker and senior Alex Sullivan, along with newcomer Ryan Cook, all saw time in Saturday’s scrimmage, and any one of them could start against VVS.
Perhaps a bigger concern is seeing who fills the large void left at wide receiver with Doyle Judge’s graduation. At 6-foot-4, Judge towered over every opposing defensive back and was a star both ways.
Still, Neidl said he has a solid group ready to take over, with Chad Warren and Mark Dewan adding a veteran presence and many others in the mix to see playing time.
Up front, Cazenovia may have its most physically imposing offensive line in years. Cameron Braathen (295 pounds), Matt Staiger (255 pounds) and Pat Cunningham (260 pounds) all return, and while some positions remain up in the air, 295-pound Cody Westfall appears a good candidate to step in and start.
That entire group will rotate on the interior portion of the Lakers’ defensive line after the graduation of David Ayer and Alex Szlamczynski. But there’s proven talent at the end spots, where Jeff Dewan and Nick Tedesco return.
Always a Lakers’ strength, the defensive unit, under the eye of coordinator Jay Steinhorst, will feature Billy Bigsby and Nick Bobbett, a pair of dynamic senior linebackers who can cover the field in no time. Nourse joins them at the outside spot.
Another veteran, JoeColligan, anchors the secondary from the safety spot, where Wilson and Hopsicker could also roam. Mark Dewan, along with senior Jack Malmsheimer, start at cornerback, and Sullivan will take over the kicking duties after Nick Christakos graduated.
It’s a tough opening slate for the Lakers. VVS has given Cazenovia fierce battles (including a 50-44, double-overtime epic in 2010) in Class B East. Cortland, who visits on Sept. 22, is new after moving down from the Class A ranks.
In between, there’s a visit to rising Class A contender Jamesville-DeWitt. And most significantly, there’s that Sept. 14 trip to Oneida, a chance at payback for that playoff heartache.
Revenge or not, Neidl said the Lakers’ measure of success remains the same.
“We don’t overlook anyone,” he said. “No matter what group we’ve had, it’s about how these kids come together, and whether they communicate well. If it’s a team, and not a bunch of individuals, we’ll be okay.”