Aug 29, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Step one of the quest to revive the Cicero-North Syracuse football program involved making the team more competitive has been taken . Now, in 2014, it wants a lot more.
After years of languishing at the bottom of the standings, the Northstars, under first-year head coach Joe Sindoni, rose to a 4-5 mark in 2013, just missing a return to the Section III Class AA playoffs and creating a hunger to do even more this fall.
This leads to the second step – winning against more established powers so that C-NS can reach the post-season, by which time a brand-new Field Turf at Bragman Stadium will be in place.
To do that, C-NS would have to overcome adversity that went beyond replacing the likes of two-way superstar Mitch Dunay, who’s now at Princeton.
When practices opened Aug. 18, the Northstars worked on a grass field behind Bragman Stadium. But a combination of heavy traffic (many different C-NS teams shared the field) and heavy rains turned it into a quagmire, and even got an assistant coach hurt.
Thus, by the end of the first week, C-NS found itself scrambling for a new practice venue. It spent a day on the Central Square turf, but then moved to North Syracuse Junior High School on Taft Road, where it will practice all the way to the end of September.
Even the scrimmage on Saturday changed, with Central Square replaced by CBA (where Sindoni graduated and served as an assistant under Joe Casamento).
What has sustained the Northstars through all of these upheavals is the increased enthusiasm for the program. Numbers are up for all the teams, and Sindoni said that 30 to 40 varsity players were regular participants in off-season conditioning programs.
“We had a lot more kids buy in to our program,” said Sindoni. “We have a lot back, and we’ve taken a step forward. But the problem is that every team we face is good, and you don’t know how much you’ve improved until you play them.”
Dom Fiorini takes over at quarterback after Owen Dziados graduated. He saw significant playing time in C-NS’s crossover wins over Auburn and Rome Free Academy late last season, and Sindoni said he is doing a good job learning the Northstars’ spread offense.
Too dependent on Dunay carrying the ball last fall, C-NS wants much more balance, and they’ll get it if Fiorini can find returning wide receivers Vinny Iannuzzo and Connor Evans on a consistent basis. A deeper rotation of receivers includes Keenan Wright, Bo Nesci and Josh Ramirez.
No single running back is going to assume Dunay’s carries, either. Instead, a committee of backs, led by Nick Golembiewski, Daquan Mathis and Drew Flack, will rotate, giving defenses far more to think about.
Anchoring C-NS’s offensive line is senior center Jake McArdell. At 6-foot-2 and 265 pounds, McArdell is drawing attention from colleges for his ability to, in Sindoni’s words, “move like a running back” and still dominate at the line of scrimmage.
Two imposing guards, Jared Hemingway and Tyler Mosher, flank McArdell, part of a line that returns four starters. Tackle Ross Mathewson grew from 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-4 and bulked up from 260 to 295 pounds in the off-season, while Marcus Thompson lines up at the other tackle.
Defensively, C-NS has another standout at linebacker, where junior captain Vinny Pitonzo returns after recording more than 150 tackles as a sophomore. Jordan Schafer and Ryan Cummings are lined up outside Pitonzo in the Northstars’ 4-3 scheme.
Up front, defensive tackle Jake Romanek, like Mathewson, gained lots of weight, going from 290 to 325 pounds, and he’ll draw lots of attentions, which means that fellow tackle Josiah Mitchell, plus McArdell and Jake Erickson at the end spots, could run wild.
All of the Northstars’ first four games are on the road, beginning Saturday night when it plays Fayetteville-Manlius in the Kickoff Classic at the Carrier Dome. Trips to Auburn and Utica Proctor follow before the Sept. 26 “Star Wars Cup” game at Liverpool.
Then, at last, the turf at Bragman Stadium will debut Oct. 3, when C-NS hosts consensus Class AA favorite Henninger. By then, the Northstars will know if all of the progress made on so many fronts to turn this program around will lead to something new – a playoff berth and title contention.
“We don’t know where we’re going to be,” said Sindoni. “But we feel pretty good about who we are. We could be a tough out for anybody.”
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