Onondaga Two bad seasons is far too many, as far as the Westhill football team is concerned.
From the high point of a Section III Class B title earned in 2009, the Warriors fell back to a place where, two years later, everything seemed to go wrong for head coach Gary Griffo and his charges, from injuries to bad penalties to untimely turnovers.
In 2012, Westhill tried to rise again. With a very young lineup, and despite injuries to several key players, the Warriors went 3-4 and sneaked into the fourth and final Section III Class B playoff spot before a first-round defeat to eventual champion Cazenovia.
Now Westhill wants to take the success the school has found in so many other sports – basketball, lacrosse and baseball – and parlay it into a return to gridiron glory.
“The kids bring a winning tradition into the (football) program,” said Griffo. “These kids know how to work hard and they want it pretty bad.”
That hard work included a trip to Syracuse University’s summer camp. Griffo, who coached in Louisiana in the 1980s, said that off-season work, such as the spring football he witnessed down south, sets the tone for the fall to follow.
Reed Derrenbacker injured his knee last fall and missed time at quarterback, forcing sophomore Richie Easterly into a starting role. Now Derrenbacker’s knee has healed and, as a senior, he’s expected to lead the charge forward.
“Reed is an excellent passer and great athlete,” said Griffo. “He can run, too, and has good passing mechanics.”
When the Warriors throw, Derrenbacker has plenty of options to consider. Donovan Whipple, who also missed time in 2012, is back at 100 percent, joining Easterly, senior Jack Centore and sophomore Chase Gedney (son of Syracuse great Chris Gedney) at the receiver spot, while senior captain Brendan Fessinger returns at tight end.