Baldwinsville 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.