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Rhodes, Hornets look for AA title breakthrough

Former F-M standout now head coach of perennial contender

— One thing that Wittig doesn’t need to worry about is a dearth of talent at the skill positions. F-M has plenty of backs and receivers that could step into starring roles this fall.

Senior Jake Pulver and sophomore Zaire Ashley give the Hornets a pair of imposing runners. Pulver (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) and Ashley (6-3, 220 pounds) both have the power to break through opposing tacklers and the speed to run away in the open field. Nate Groesbeck adds depth at tailback.

Perez, before his knee injury, was a dominant receiver, and while no one F-M player might match his ability, the likes of Bruce Williams and Jack Wilson can match Perez’s production, while 6-foot-4 senior Tim Byrnes could cause real match-up problems as a receiver or tight end.

For all of F-M’s skill potential, its real strength could be on the line, where there’s plenty of proven players on hand. Anchored by senior center Matt Stegemann, the front five includes senior Chris Dobrzynski and junior Jake Okun at guard, plus 6-7, 270-pound junior Cormac Bettinger and 280-pound senior Rich Zogby at tackle.

“At any level of football, it’s tough to win if you don’t have a dominant line,” said Rhodes. “We have experience, but we continue to gel and get better. We have a chance to have a really solid front.”

Kyle Keeney, Rhodes’ teammate from Pop Warner football right through F-M’s 2001 sectional title run, takes over as defensive coordinator, and Rhodes said their long-time friendship helps them work together well, with Keeney almost serving as a right-hand man to Rhodes.

Keeney’s biggest task might be replacing two dominant defensive linemen, as T.J. Wheatley transferred to Buffalo’s Canisius High School and Nate Kadah graduated. On F-M’s 4-3 front, Zogby, Byrnes, Stegemann and Chris Bortel will fit into the line rotation.

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