Aug 27, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Perhaps the time has finally arrived for Jordan-Elbridge football.
A combination of veteran leadership on the field, vast improvement in all phases of the game and changes within the Class C West division give the Eagles an opportunity to end its long quest and turn into a league and Section III title contender.
Tim Hawkins’ first season as J-E head coach proved quite successful, as the Eagles climbed to the .500 mark, going 4-4 after a 1-7 mark in 2012. But that only translated to a fifth-place finish in a tough C West division.
Among the many proven players that return is senior quarterback Austin Barrigar, entering his third year as a starter. Hawkins said that Barrigar has reached the point where he is similar to having an assistant coach on the field.
“I give (Austin) a lot of rope,” said Hawkins. “He’s grown in leaps and bounds from a mental standpoint. Nine times out of 10, he knows what I want to do. He’s successful through hard work, and he knows how to lead this group.”
Barrigar concurred. “I can tell (the coaches) what play to call if I see something that I want,” he said.
Of course, a quarterback can’t do it alone, and J-E might have its finest offense in decades, with a deep group of running backs, two potent receiving targets and lots of depth and experience up front.
Bulldozing senior fullback Ryan Matousek leads the way in the backfield, where he’ll split most of the carries with tailback Sam Robles. If either of them needs a break, LaMatt Chisholm or George Richardson is ready to step in and carry the ball.
Though not possessed with the strongest of arms, Barrigar will wing it downfield, and he’ll often look for senior Kyle Humberstone, his top wideout, or for tight end Zach Pangaro, who could get open a lot if teams worry too much about containing Matousek or Robles.
While as many as eight Eagles could work on the offensive line, the starting five is set. Senior captain Justin Quinn (205 pounds) is paired up with Ryan Rowley at guard. Just 165 pounds, Rowley moves from running back, and despite his lack of size, said Hawkins, “kids just bounce off of him.”
More size is found with 280-pound Nick Hallinan at tackle and 265-pound Taylor Eisenberg at center, while Ryan Cooper (195 pounds) occupies the other guard spot. The line will get a boost if sophomore Sam Everett returns from broken foot in September, as scheduled.
With that line depth, J-E can place Zach Conners and Scott Braun at defensive tackle on a four-man front and not worry about wearing them out, though Cooper will go both ways as he joins Dylan Dunham at defensive end.
Hawkins calls his linebackers “a very strong group” – the best he’s had in his coaching career. Quinn patrols the inside next to Robles, while Chisholm and Pangaro could fly in from the outside and help the pass rush or pass coverage. Pangaro also is the team’s placekicker.
The linebackers are so good, in fact, that Matousek, who had 110 tackles a season ago, moved from that spot to free safety, strengthening a secondary that already had Humberstone locked in at cornerback, with Richardson on the other flank. Matousek could get some college looks as a punter, too.
A tough September slate starts next Sunday, at the Carrier Dome, when J-E faces Thousand Islands in the Kickoff Classic. Two weeks later, Class C West division play begins when the Eagles host league favorite Syracuse ITC, followed by a Sept. 26 trip to Bishop Ludden, where Hawkins was an assistant under Gaelic Knights head coach Mike Rogers.
But the Eagles don’t have to worry about Skaneateles anymore, since the Lakers (2012 sectional champions) moved back to Class B this fall. Still, a league that includes ITC, Ludden and Tully, among others, will not prove easy to navigate.
In important ways, J-E’s task goes beyond winning games on the field. Headlines in the spring that surrounded alleged theft in the athletic department and misbehavior from the departing senior class put the school in a negative light.
Quinn said that much of that negativity is now gone, and that his team, along with new athletic director Mark Schermerhorn, can help J-E look at itself in a different manner.
“We want to give the school a brighter image,” he said. “We want to do that job.”
Hawkins senses that this could be a special season. “We know what we’re capable of,” he said. “We just have to put it together on the field. Hopefully, we can get it rolling.”