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Howard leads football Wildcats into 2013

West Genny out to return to winning form

West Genesee senior running back Naesean Howard (43) cuts back on a long touchdown run during last Wednesday night’s Blue-White scrimmage. The Wildcats open its 2013 season next Friday night against visiting Auburn.

West Genesee senior running back Naesean Howard (43) cuts back on a long touchdown run during last Wednesday night’s Blue-White scrimmage. The Wildcats open its 2013 season next Friday night against visiting Auburn. Dana Northrop

— Hidden among the perennial Class AA football powerhouses lies a sleeping group of Wildcats ready to pounce.

After winning the Section III title in 2011, West Genesee had a disappointing 2012 regular season, finishing with a 3-4 record, though it did earn a playoff win at Liverpool and reached the sectional semifinals before falling to eventual champion CBA.

But after weeks of intense workouts and practices, everyone, including All-State running back Naesean Howard, thinks this year’s team has the ability to go the distance.

“This team right here is probably the best team I’ve played on,” he said. “This year, they worked really hard.”

Even after losing multiple starters on offense and defense to graduation, Howard said this team is extremely tight-knit and everyone trusts one another. Before practices started each morning, Howard said he and a few other teammates would even go out and run hills and lift weights on their own.

“We’re a real threat this year,” senior quarterback Bailey Gauthier said.

Confidence certainly isn’t lacking, but there are still questions surrounding the team. One question is who will start at quarterback.

Gauthier has the inside track on the job, head coach Joe Corley said, but sophomore Dashon Turner, who transferred this summer from Bishop Ludden, has also impressed, despite just starting to learn the offense.

“Bailey’s making a lot of progress and so is Dashon,” Corley said.

Gauthier (5-foot-9, 175 pounds) is a dual-threat quarterback who can run and throw the ball well, especially when the pocket collapses or if receivers aren’t open.

Turner (5-foot-11, 180 pounds), on the other hand, is more of a pocket passer and fundamentally sound, Corley said. Gauthier’s advantage, however, is his age and knowledge of the system.

“Bailey’s really impressed us,” Corley said. “He’s been very multi-dimensional for us so we’re real excited for him. But the competition is still on.”

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