Aug 26, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
When a football team goes 4-4, as the Chittenango Bears did in 2013, the general consensus is that a lot of improvement is needed, but not a complete overhaul.
Yet the Bears, who missed out on a Section III Class B playoff berth despite that break-even mark, might face that sober reality because, of the 32 players on the varsity roster, just three were regulars on the field a season ago.
The results, according to head coach Jack Hayes, has been position battles nearly everywhere on the field during August practices, and a lot of raw talent that, if harnessed, could lead to something good.
“We just want to make sure these guys are in the right spots,” said Hayes. “I like the mix that we have, with young guys that we’re going to have for a long time.”
There’s a much different look at quarterback. Instead of run-first Matt Cretaro, there’s Justin Gondeck, a 6-foot-2, 170-pound junior with a very live arm that, at the very least, Hayes wants to tame before the season is over.
“He loves throwing those 50-yards bombs, so it’s fun to watch,” said Hayes. “But we’ve got to calm him down so he can make good decisions.”
A good example of the position battles the Bears face is at wide receiver. Six different players, including Austin Seguin, Matt Milliman, Duncan Smith, Will Young, Wyatt Myers and Delvin Williams, could start here, with Smith back at Chittenango after a year spent at CBA.
Youth could be found in the backfield, where freshman Antonio Cutrie is battling with Anthony Lozipone for playing time. Cutrie, whom Hayes calls a “big, tough kid”, played JV football as an eighth-grader and also has two years varsity experience with the Chittenango wrestling team.
A deep group of tailbacks, including Akira Greenwood, Michael Addison, Josh Diable and Dan Brazeau, could split carries behind an offensive line that Hayes says is the Bears’ biggest question mark.
At center, Jake Litke is flanked by guard Ethan Perry, with Robert Hill set at one tackle spot. The big concern is whether Justin Cox and Nate Lanning will play at tackle or guard.
But sophomore Hunter Hendrix is ready to take over at tight end. Just as importantly, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Hendrix starts at middle linebacker, drawing praise from Hayes as a player who “eats and sleeps” football and will anchor the Bears’ unique 3-5 defensive alignment.
Employing five linebackers, Chittenango will have Lozipone, Cutrie and another freshman, 6-foot-2, 180-pound Brian Coe, flanking him, while Seguin and Myers play outside as hybrid linebacker/defensive ends.
They can do so because the Bears possess an effective defensive line, with Cox at nose guard flanked by tackles Hill and Diable, with help from Drew Brancato. Gatewood is a returning starter at cornerback, where Williams also starts and the likes of Milliman, Addison and Smith wage yet another position battle for starting safety.
Still in the Class B West division, the Bears will open Sept. 5 at Skaneateles, who went to Class C for three tumultuous seasons that included a recruiting controversy that ended an undefeated 2011 season and a sectional title one year later.
Following that, Chittenango has to travel to Phoenix and Marcellus before finally playing in front of the home fans Sept. 25 against league favorite Homer, a game televised by Time Warner Cable Sports.
Those three straight road games at the outset have the potential to derail the Bears before it even finds its footing. But Hayes said it could work the other way, too, that gaining victories in that road swing could lead to a strong finish and a return to the sectional playoffs.
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