Aug 29, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
In less than a week, all of the turmoil, tumult and transition that has symbolized Cicero-North Syracuse football will melt away, and the game itself will assume center stage.
When the Northstars kick off its 2013 season Friday night at Baldwinsville, it does so excited about its future direction – but knowing that the present might prove a bit rough.
Not only did C-NS have back-to-back 1-7 seasons in 2011 and ’12, it also dealt with the year-long injury-related absence of head coach Steve Ellis and discontent from some players and parents who thought the program needed to turn around.
Eventually, Ellis stepped down, clearing the way for a bold hire – Joe Sindoni,a coach who dealt, up-close, with controversy of another sort at Skaneateles before taking charge in 2012 and leading the Lakers to its first sectional title in 20 years.
Having played Pop Warner football in Cicero as a kid before attending Christian Brothers Academy (where he was also an assistant coach for 14 years), this is, for Sindoni, a homecoming, but as much as he wanted to change the Northstars’ fortunes, he knew he couldn’t do it alone.
Sindoni brought with him six assistant coaches from Skaneateles, including offensive coordinator Tim Brown and defensive coordinator Tim Lee. But he also kept on staff long-time C-NS coaches, including Jack McAndrew (who was the interim coach in 2012) and Bill Aldrich.
Keeping those familiar names, said Sindoni, has been “interesting, but we spend less time coaching coaches and more time dealing with players. And they’re enthusiastic kids that have worked hard so far.”
And there’s a lot of players to deal with – 52 in all on the varsity roster. Of them, just 15 are seniors, with eight sophomores and a large junior class on hand, all of them learning the spread offense that Sindoni learned at CBA and utilized at Skaneateles, with very productive results.
Senior Owen Dziados, a C-NS baseball star who did not play football last year, beat out incumbent Tyler Griffo for the starting quarterback job. This gives the Northstars some passion options, and if Griffo doesn’t start under center, he’ll still make lots of contributions as he handles kicking and punting duties.
The spread offense features four and five-receiver formations. This will provide lots of pass-catching opportunities for a cast that includes Brian DeMonte, Vinny Ianuzzo, Jordan Schafer and Sean Fay, among others.
C-NS will run, too, with senior Mitch Dunay and junior Daquan Williams splitting time in single-back sets behind an offensive line anchored, in the middle, by center Jake McArdell, yet another baseball star who will play a key role.
One guard spot is open, but the other belongs to 280-pound Tyler Mosher, one of many sophomores who will see lots of playing time this fall. With 265-pound senior Ray Young and 260-pound junior Marcus Thompson, the Northstars are set at tackle.
Sindoni said the strength of the C-NS defense will be at linebacker, where 6-foot-4, 230-pound senior Mitch Dunay will garner lots of attention from the college ranks for his all-out approach and tackling ability. He starts inside, next to sophomore Vinny Pitonzo, while Fay and Schafer lead the way at outside linebacker.
Depending on the opponent and game situation, C-NS could have a 3-4 or 4-3 alignment. Either way, expect a rotation of up to seven players, including 310-pound Jake Romanick at nose tackle, with returning junior Jared Hemingway (he started as a sophomore) and Josiah Mitchell also in the mix.
Having to face many different passing attacks in the Class AA ranks, the Northstars’ secondary will need to be sound, leaving it up to Ianuzzo, Daquan Mathis and Jeremy Rivera at the corner spots, plus Bo Nesci at safety, to prevent big plays.
The B’ville opener is just one of three tough opening assignments for C-NS, as it hosts archrival Liverpool Sept. 13 and, a week later, hosts CBA, reuniting Sindoni with his former boss, Joe Casamento, and his alma mater.
Even as it looks to erase the pain of those 1-7 campaigns, Sindoni said that, at least this fall, the record is less important than the strides his program takes to regain respectability.
“Whatever the won-loss record ends up being, I want to see daily improvement,” he said. “We’re putting a lot on these kids in a short amount of time. We are moving in the right direction, but time will tell. We’re having a good time. We’ll see how much we’re having after the Baldwinsville game.”