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Rouse, Bees look to reclaim AA football summit

Coach says defense holds key to B'ville title push

— Aside from the usual amount of time in the weight room, Sanfilippo said his players also put a greater emphasis on performance training in the winter, spring and summer, working as much on speed and agility as on power. The result is a 50-man roster that, on the eve of Saturday's scrimmage against Central Square, did not have a single injury to report.

That could allow Rouse to get a breather from time to time. When he does, two other backs, Ricky Sparks and Brian Mahar, will see some action, while Matt Paddock returns at the crucial fullback position, backed up by Matt Hartwell and Cole Burchill.

B'ville still has a good competition going as to who will succeed Augie Zona at quarterback. Josh Demoski and Gage Blaise are both taking snaps, and when the Bees throw the ball, veteran receivers Joe Stanard and Shay Sargeant are the main targets.

All of that will not matter much, of course, if the defense doesn't make the sort of key plays that were so commonplace during the championship years.

There is lots of size on B'ville's four-man front, where 280-pound Jakeeth Jackson and 315-pound Alfonso Whitehurst will cause all sorts of match-up problems at tackle, while Penfield and Justin Weeks start at end.

Facing all kinds of sophisticated passing attacks, the Bees need to have some speed in the secondary, and get it from Sparks and Sargeant at the corners, while Eric Anthony returns to start at safety.

In front of them is a group of linebackers that, according to Sanfilippo, are "not All-Americans, but they are solid." That includes Paddock, Hartwell, Burchill and Stanard, a quartet featured on both sides of the ball. Dean Tortellette is back to handle kicking duties.

A shuffle in the Class AA-1 division leaves B'ville alongside Proctor, Liverpool, Fayetteville-Manlius, Rome Free Academy and Auburn. The Bees don't get a chance for revenge against the Raiders until Oct. 12, the regular-season finale, and start with non-league games against C-NS and Henninger.

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