Aug 30, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A large and enthusiastic group of Liverpool football players will charge onto the turf at LHS Stadium on Friday night for its 2013 season opener against Henninger, hoping that, this time around, a solid regular season will be followed by an extended post-season visit.
That didn’t happen a season ago. True, the Warriors were solid in the first portion, going 5-2 and finishing second in the Class AA-1 division, but then it crashed out of the Section III Class AA playoffs in the opening round, beaten 36-25 at home by West Genesee.
Part of the problem, said head coach Dave Mancuso, was his own coaching decisions, a bit of self-criticism. But he added that the 2012 team never found a real chemistry on and off the field and also faced discipline problems, meaning that the message from the coaches was not getting through.
So far this year, Mancuso said he is very pleased by what his roster of more than 60 players is doing, not just in terms of work in practice, but bonding once the practices are done.
“I am happy with the character of this team,” he said. “The kids are buying into the system this time, and things are going smoothly. The kids are listening to us and not arguing with each other. That’s a step in the right direction.”
While the chemistry is nice, the performance is another matter, and the Warriors like its odds as long as senior quarterback Justin Capoto is running the show.
Capoto started two games as a sophomore and every game as a junior. Then, before his senior season, he worked even harder on, as Mancuso described it, the “little things”, ranging from mechanics, cadences and fakes to the rhythm and timing of his throws.
The presence of Capoto helps Liverpool smoothly transition from departed tailback Jeff Edwards to a two-pronged running attack. Senior Anthony Twom is back, both carrying the ball and mentoring sophomore Jaydakis Scott, who has superstar potential. James Terranova and Gavin Youker could split time at fullback.
When Capoto throws the ball, he’ll look for the senior tandem of James Wade and Caleb Taylor, with Wade earning particular praise from Mancuso for his route-running and speed. Junior Matt Sala will catch passes, too, while senior Ben Terzini is the likely starter at tight end.
By far, Liverpool’s biggest offensive concern is the front line, which returns just one starter, 295-pound senior Geoff Bell at left tackle.
The size is there, from Dan Cossleman (275 pounds) at tackle to guards Dan Ireton (240 pounds) and Kadeem Shairs (275 pounds), to center Joe Grannell (245 pounds), but a line’s effectiveness takes more time to develop than it does at the skill positions, so much work remains.
A big asset for the Warriors is knowing that, every time it drives inside an opponent’s 30-yard line, it has a chance to score because of the big leg of kicker Trevor Monk, who will also handle punting duties.
Taylor, a basketball standout, is a quick and disruptive defensive end as part of the Warriors’ four-man front, with Chris Grannell (Joe’s twin brother) at the other end spot. A deep rotation at nose guard, including Shairs and Joe Grannell, flanks returning tackle Ron Wilson.
At linebacker, another highly-touted sophomore, Joe Scro, could have the same impact as Scott on the offensive side, as Scro starts inside with Terzini, with Twom and Darren Breen at the outside spots. In a three-man secondary, Chris Backus is the lone safety, joined by Sala and Wade at cornerback.
The talent for Liverpool is on hand, said Mancuso, so it all depends on where it can handle all of the little details if it wants a shot at ending a sectional title drought that stretches back to 1998.
“I’m a little more excited this year, because my players have jelled real well,” he said. “We can be good, but we have to stay focused.”