Solvay Head coach Matt Shutts and his Solvay football players know what they have dealt with in the last couple of seasons, and they are sick of it.
Once a perennial power, the Bearcats begin the 2013 season trying to erase a 23-game losing streak, including winless campaigns in 2011 and 2012. But everyone in blue and orange insists that this time it will be different.
“Even though we weren’t winning, we still had a family atmosphere, and we stayed with it,” said Shutts. “The kids were grasping it, and liked what we were building here.”
Combine that trend with success for Solvay in other sports (league titles in track and baseball, improvement in basketball), and participation has skyrocketed.
When last season ended, the Bearcats were down to 19 players, trending toward the state minimum needed for a game. Now, 30 boys will suit up, with 30 more playing on the JV team.
And all of them are active participants. Last summer, at an August pre-season football camp for kids in grades seven through 12 just a week before practices started, just 32 players showed up. This time, 57 were there, and that was just from ninth grade up.
That’s translated into a very busy weight room, too, with an average of more than 30 kids lifting during each session, and as many as 57 in one day. In short, a lot of people want to be part of what Solvay hopes will be a football renaissance.
The keystone in this entire process is next Sunday’s season opener, against long-time rival Marcellus in the Carrier Dome for the Tom Anthony Silver Cup. For a long time, this was a late-season contest, but the move to the opener, the Dome stage, and Solvay’s fervent desire to erase its long dry spell, adds even more weight to the affair.