Chittenango Regardless of what is going on in the rest of the world, there’s no doubt that Chittenango football is in the midst of a serious boom.
In the last two years, the Bears have gone 19-2, earning a Section III Class B championship in 2011 and coming close to repeating 12 months later before Madison County rival Cazenovia stopped them 35-21 in the title game at the Carrier Dome.
All of this success has proved contagious. Chittenango head coach Jack Hayes said that, in all of his 15 years in the program (10 as head coach), he has never seen this amount of participation.
When the Bears take the field in front of a large, loud home crowd Friday night for its 2013 opener against Westhill, it will have 49 players on the varsity roster, with another 40 playing JV.
“People are just excited to play football for the Bears,” said Hayes.
And that excitement has not dulled one bit because of the departures of so many stars from those 2011-12 teams. Devin Phelps is gone, as is Steve Billington. Aaron Jones is at Buffalo State. Kyle Zimmer is at St. John Fisher. Joe Gilona has headed to Morrisville State.
But with such a large group of returning players and an influx of new faces, Hayes said he is not concerned one bit about losing so many stars.
“The kids that are back know what kind of effort it takes, and know where they want to be at the end of the season,” he said. “We’re not looking to slow things down one bit.”
Replacing Phelps at quarterback is a particularly tall order, but senior Matt Cretaro will give it a shot. Having waited so long behind Phelps, said Hayes, has made Cretaro determined to succeed and display his own strong arm and leadership skills.