Aug 28, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Even to high school sports programs defined by their consistency, both in their approach to the game and in their leadership, change is inevitable.
Baldwinsville, for so long an epitome of tough, hard-nosed football with an emphasis on a powerful ground game, is adapting its approach in order to remain near the top of the Section III Class AA ranks.
All through the off-season since the Bees dropped last November’s sectional final to CBA, the usual amount of work in the weight room has taken place, but something else has happened, too.
According to B’ville head coach Carl Sanfilippo, a lot of attention has been devoted to the passing game – establishing it on the offensive end, and then stopping it on the defensive end.
“We have to be able to throw the ball to keep eight (defenders) out of the box,” said Sanfilippo. “And we’ve been spending a lot of time on it.”
That’s not the only change taking place. For the first time since 2009, the Bees won’t have Tyler Rouse in the backfield, putting up record numbers. Rouse is now at Boston College, one of the few top-level college programs to recruit him despite his huge performances.
Also, long-time assistant coach Mark Bader has retired. To replace him, B’ville tapped Bill Spicer, who played for the Bees in the 1980s, and then went on to coach the Mike Hart-led Onondaga Tigers to three consecutive state championships from 2001 to ’03.
Spicer’s duties include coaching the running backs and linebackers – and yes, the Bees’ famous ground game should remain a focal point. The only difference is that many runners, and not one big star, will share the carries, and production.
As a junior in 2012, Ricky Sparks gave Rouse a breather and picked up more than 800 yards. Now as a senior, Sparks leads a three-pronged tailback group that also includes senior Brian Mahar and junior Cameron Skipworth. There’s also a trio of fullbacks on hand, with returnee Cole Burchill joined by Tariq Lejia and Caleb Carter.
Another constant at B’ville is a big, imposing offensive line. Despite the graduation of Luke Earle, Alonzo Whitehurst, Dave Sawatzke and Mo Bouvia, the Bees remain quite strong in the trenches.
Marcel Penfield (280 pounds) returns for his senior season at left guard, flanked by tackle Karl Smiley (250 pounds) and center Jacob Geer (260 pounds). Jakeith Jackson (275 pounds), a starter since his sophomore year on the defensive line, now goes both ways, working at right tackle with Sam Gosson (215 pounds) at right guard.
Despite all this, B’ville knows it will need to throw the ball. Fortunately, senior quarterback Gage Blasi has some experience, having started three games last fall when Josh Demoski sat out due to a concussion.
Blasi, when he does throw, deals with a new group of receivers after the graduation of Joe Stanard, Shay Sargeant and Eric Anthony. Sam Smith, Mitch Rein and John Mercurio take over in the slot, while Mike Yorkey and Kevin Carson give B’ville a pair of big, experienced tight ends.
To preserve the arms of quarterbacks (and also work on special teams), the program bought a $3,000 machine, similar to a baseball pitching machine, that simulates long passes as well as punts. The machine even can be made to spin the ball like a spiral (for passes) or end-over-end, as punts would.
From B’ville’s 4-3 defensive alignment, Jackson is a three-year starter at tackle, part of a senior rotation that also includes Penfield and Joe Nasoni. Brayton Cronk starts at end, with Yorkey and Kevin Carson still battling to see who gets the other end spot.
It’s much the same situation at linebacker, where Stanard’s work earned him a look at Syracuse University as a walk-on and Rouse stood out, too. Burchill moves in at middle linebacker, flanked outside by Calvin Tanguay, with Leija or Eric Candee still in the mix, too, though all will see action.
Sargeant and Anthony (who also walked on at SU) gave the Bees a pair of lockdown presences in the secondary. Without them, it’s up to Sparks, who returns at cornerback, and Mahar to work on the outside with wrestling star Kevin Paul. Skipworth, Rein and Smith could all see action at strong safety, while Dave Gullen and Colin Taylor operate at free safety.
B’ville also has a dependable kicker in junior Tom Scarfino, who was called up from JV as a sophomore last fall and hit a series of crucial field goals, including the 33-yard game winner in the fourth quarter of the 38-36 sectional semifinal victory over Fayetteville-Manlius.
A rematch with F-M (now coached by Damien Rhodes) looms as a big contest for the Bees Sept. 20, this after it opens at home against Cicero-North Syracuse and its new coach, Joe Sindoni, and pays a Sept. 13 visit to Henninger.
In all of those games, said Sanfililppo, he expects B’ville to get challenged through the air, and knows that his own team must provide a passing threat, too, if it wants to reclaim the sectional throne from CBA, even if it’s in a manner Bees fans might not find that familiar.