Aug 23, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
To equate football with the tenets of Murphy’s Law – whatever can go wrong, will go wrong – is strange, but perfectly appropriate when describing the 2011 edition of the Westhill football team.
A mere two seasons after winning the Section III Class B championship, the Warriors claimed the season opener 14-7 at Solvay – and did not win again for the rest of the regular season, a 1-6 mark.
During that time, said head coach Gary Griffo, “things happened, on and off the field, that decimated us.”
Every conceivable woe struck Westhill, from injuries to suspensions to poor play on the field resulting from turnovers, penalties and other mental errors. Griffo said that at least three games that the Warriors had a chance to win were thrown away due to those mistakes.
This leaves Westhill in a strange position going into 2012, trying to climb back to a top in a Class B West division made tougher by the arrival of Cortland from the Class A ranks, joining established favorites Chittenango (the defending champions), Homer and Marcellus.
One thing the Warriors can look forward to is a brand-new artificial turf field, just installed. The facility should be ready in time for Friday night’s season opener against Camden, one of four home games on the slate.
Though participation numbers are down – 52 total players on the varsity and JV sides, as compared to 72 in 2010 – Griffo is confident in the players he does have.
That includes a pair of quarterbacks still fighting for the starting spot. Junior Reed Derrenbacher and sophomore Richie Easterly both played last fall, taking every other snap. Griffo said that won’t happen this season, as one will definitively take over the reins by the Camden opener.
Westhill is deep in the backfield, with senior Carson Hicks and sophomore Mike Burton ready to share ball-carrying duties. And that group only gets better when Christian St. Amour’s foot heals. St. Amour should return for the Sept. 7 game at Marcellus.
One key returnee is Ben Walsh, a senior who missed the 2011 season. Griffo said that Walsh, also a standout baseball pitcher, could line up anywhere on the field and contribute in multiple ways, and that includes the kicking game.
It also includes tight end, where Walsh, Brendan Bessinger and sophomore Donovan Whipple could all see time. Dan Gratien and Jake Redmond line up at wide receiver.
The Warriors do have a big offensive line. Tackles Elliott Milczak and Jack Sweeney check in at 280 and 270 pounds, respectively, while Cory Badman (240 pounds) and Mark Vadala (220 pounds) start at guard. The smallest linemen, center Franco Tangreti, checks in at 210 pounds.
Working from a 4-3 defensive front, Westhill sees Chris Awad return at end, joining Vadala. Hicks is at tackle, lined up with Badman, in front of a new-look linebacker corps anchored by Tony Rogers in the middle, with Walsh and Whipple at the outside spots.
Gratien is yet another two-way player, ready to go at cornerback next to Chris Brusa, with Redmond and Burton leading the group of cornerbacks.
Griffo is putting more emphasis on the opener, even if Camden is a non-league game. Westhill won the 2011 curtain-raiser at Solvay despite all kinds of mistakes, something the Warriors were never able to fix for the rest of the campaign.
Win or lose, said Griffo, “the whole season depends on our first game. If we can play a good game, that will generate momentum for the program going forward.”