Aug 24, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Something new, novel and refreshing has entered the Jamesville-DeWitt football program – a taste of success, followed by reasonable expectations to do even better.
The Red Rams’ long, tough climb out of the Class A basement, under the watch of head coach Eric Ormond, reached a tipping point in 2011 with a 5-2 regular-season mark, a second-place finish in the Class A American division and the team’s first home playoff game in 14 years.
But J-D lost that playoff contest to Watertown, 22-14, leaving Ormond and his players with a feeling that work remains for the Rams to challenge for a sectional title.
“We got better,” said Ormond. “But we also had breakdowns that cost us a couple of games.”
Tempting as it is to build upon success, Ormond said that the 2012 edition of the Rams, who open Friday night against Johnson City in the Kickoff Classic at the Carrier Dome, needs to first establish itself as a team before it can chase loftier goals.
“This group had to build its own identity, so that they can have their own accomplishments,” he said.
On the offensive side, Eric Thompson, a dual run/pass threat who effectively ran J-D’s flex-bone, averaging more than seven yards per carry and scoring 11 touchdowns last fall, has to be replaced.
J-D is trying out a pair of quarterback options. Senior Ryan Wright, at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, is a top-flight athlete capable of running to daylight, while freshman Jack Brotzki, at 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, is the star of the future, and not yet fully developed from a physical standpoint.
“There’s no quarterback competition,” he said. “They’re teammates, they’re working together and they’re both going to play.”
As that situation develops, J-D can take lots of comfort in its trio of experienced running backs.
Rasheed Baker returns at fullback, while Taumeras Howard, a three-year starter on both sides of the ball, and Josiah Williams serve as slot backs, equally capable of carrying the ball or going deep as receivers. Kaalan Wynn, Ben Wipper and Rob Murphy will split time at wide receiver.
Since the Rams do not line up with a tight end, it puts more pressure on the offensive line, a unit that took a serious hit when one of the projected starters, Lyndon Pisansky, injured his knee, which could cause him to miss the season.
Thus, J-D could have just one returning starter on the front five– center Zach Shapiro. But guards Matt Thompson and Brian Roth, along with tackle Peter Crossett, were backups last fall, while Ryan Pike and Ryan Adelberg battle it out for the other tackle spot.
Defensively, the Rams operate with three lineman and five linebackers. Wynn and Matt Thompson work at the end spots, with Josn Berube part of a large group of possibilities at nose tackle.
Crossett, a returning starter at middle linebacker, anchors a unit where Ben Honis is also set to start, while Joe Murphy and James Jones could split time. Outside, Willie Walker returns after missing most of 2011 with a knee injury, joining John Werbowski.
Given their offensive duties, the secondary trio of Howard, Baker and Williams may not see action on every single defensive snap, so players like Zach Hatem, Kavon Anderson and Rob Murphy are likely to step in when the top three need a breather.
Life in the Class A American division got a bit tougher when Nottingham dropped down from the Class AA ranks, joining a lineup that already included defending champion East Syracuse-Minoa, plus Fowler and Fulton. Ormond said his team has reached a point where more things are possible.
“There’s not a team on our schedule that we can’t compete with,” he said. “But they can also beat us. ‘Respect all, fear none – that is the approach we have to take.”