Aug 27, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
With the Class B West football landscape changing around them thanks to a fair amount of arrivals and departures, the Marcellus Mustangs stand out for its relative stability.
Season after season, the Mustangs, at the very least, put itself among the top four finishers in the league and get into the Section III playoffs, as it did in 2013, when it went 5-2 in the regular season and won a first-round sectional game over Vernon-Verona-Sherrill before falling in the semifinals to eventual champion Cazenovia.
But the question remains – how do the Mustangs go from good to great and challenge for a championship? Senior captain Will Coon said it all depends on hard work and avoiding mental mistakes during the games, while still doing all of the little things right.
It starts with chemistry. Senior running back Ian McGloon said that, among the younger players on the roster, there was a lot of participation in the various off-season programs, from conditioning to seven-on-seven tournaments.
“They show up to everything and they want to play,” said McGloon.
Going into August practices, head coach Joe Fiacchi anticipated a lot of position battles, including at quarterback, where Tom Keegan held the spot a season ago.
Indeed, junior Mike Keegan and sophomore Tom Fiacchi remained on fairly even terms going into last Saturday’s scrimmages. Either of them could start Friday’s opener at Solvay, and Joe Fiacchi said he’s comfortable with them both, with Keegan a bigger and more physical athlete, but Tom Fiacchi more adept at throwing the ball.
Whoever is under center, they’ll have proven threats at the skill positions to count on, with McGloon and Aaron Cusack at running back leading the running back corps and Coon back as the top wide receiver.
Coon, considered one of the top wideouts in Central New York, will draw plenty of double teams, so Nate Garlow, a running back in the JV ranks a year ago, could see open looks, as could tight ends Brian Jankowski and Shane Rohe.
Senior Jack Brennan, at 210 pounds, leads an offensive line designed more on speed and footwork than size, especially with the likes of Steve Hogan and Tom Wagner gone. Brennan is the lone returning starter.
Almost as a unit, the JV starting line from 2013 moves up, from 250-pound Andrew Boone at center to 240-pound Kerr Linder at guard. Kyle Norstad, listed at 195 pounds, works at tackle, while 220-pound Matt Kaczor slides into the other tackle spot.
Joe Fiacchi said this particular line is quicker off the ball, but its lack of varsity experience will mean some early struggles.
“Our team goes as they go,” said Fiacchi. “If they get better, we’re going to get better as a whole.”
Still, the Mustangs’ biggest task is improving a defense that gave up more than 300 points a season ago, including 43 to Cazenovia in their regular-season meeting and 63 to those same Lakers in their playoff rematch. Fiacchi said the task here was to get quicker and more aggressive all over the field.
In the unusual 5-2 alignment the Mustangs prefer, 6-foot-8, 240-pound Peter Rao could prove an imposing presence in the middle, especially when lined up next to Boone and 265-pound Nate David at the tackle spots, while Alex Frank and Chris Sotelo bring quickness at defensive end.
Much is depending on 5-foot-11, 200-pound Nate Lukins at linebacker, with Nate Long next to him in front of a veteran secondary that includes Cusick and Ben Hood at cornerback, with Garlow and Keegan poised to start at safety.
Marcellus plays two big-time rivalry games at the outset, opening Friday at Solvay as it defends the Tom Anthony Memorial Cup before a long-anticipated Sept. 12 home opener against Skaneateles, who returns to Class B after three tumultuous seasons in the Class C realm.
Though games like this tend to take place late in the season, Brennan said that having Solvay and Skaneateles at the start is a good way to expend all of the excitement and nervous energy a team feels when the season begins.
The Skaneateles clash is the first of four Marcellus home games, with Chittenango (Sept. 19), Westhill (Oct. 3) and Phoenix (Oct. 17) also paying visits. A crucial Oct. 10 trip to Homer may go a long way toward determining the top of the league standings.
“We should be in all our games in the fourth quarter,” said Joe Fiacchi. “It’s just a matter of getting better on defense.”