Aug 29, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
At some point, all of the pieces will fit together and the Liverpool football program will reach a Section III Class AA final, ending a drought that dates back to its championship season of 1998 – but will that time come this fall?
Once again, the Warriors were good a season ago, going 5-2 and shutting out West Genesee 28-0 in the opening round of the sectional playoffs. And once again it fell one win short of getting to the Carrier Dome, as eventual champion CBA took them out in the semifinals.
Going into 2014, Liverpool head coach Dave Mancuso faced the challenge of replacing 32 seniors, a group that included quarterback Justin Capoto, wide receiver Caleb Taylor, lineman Geoffrey Bell and kicker Trevor Monk.
“We’ve got a lot of shoes to fill,” said Mancuso.
The battle to be Liverpool’s new starting quarterback symbolizes the questions on the rest of the roster. Capoto started since the middle of his sophomore season in 2011, and three players are trying to replace him.
Senior Ricky Sisto got plenty of snaps in pre-season practice, but so did junior Jordan Caviners, up from the JV team, and so did sophomore Matt Rioux, who could, with a strong finish to the pre-season, find himself as the same kind of long-term solution Capoto turned out to be.
Liverpool is far more settled at running back, where Jaydakis Scott nearly topped 1,000 yards despite missing several starts a year ago. Scott and Rashon Crenshaw give the Warriors two capable big-play backs, with newcomer Dietrick Roberson blocking for them at fullback.
Senior Matt Sala returns at wide receiver and will draw a lot of defensive attention now that Taylor is gone, which could open up routes for Austin Ludwig. Liverpool is deep at tight end, where defensive star Joe Scro and Michael Cutrone could split time.
Dan Cosselman (270 pounds), who could play at guard or tackle, is the lone returning starter on the Warriors’ offensive line. Ben Widas steps in at center, while Nick Piekarski (215 pounds) flanks him at the other guard spot and David Carnie (265 pounds) is at tackle. Marcus Cooke and Zach Mentel are part of the mix, too, with Mentel forced to miss the season opener due to a minor injury.
As for Liverpool’s defense, it went from the shutout it gave to West Genesee to giving up 61 points to CBA as its season came to an end. The truth lay somewhere in between those extremes.
A big (literally and figuratively) change on the front line includes the addition of Alex Denegal, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound transfer from Alabama, who will join Nick DeMarzo on a four-man front that will also rotate in Cutrone, Carnie, Cooke and Mentel.
Scro is the leader of the linebacker corps. At 190 pounds, he will rarely leave the field, Mancuso calling him the “defensive quarterback” who will call out signals for his teammates on the line and secondary. Jared Thiel, Michael Wright, Charles Green and Kyle Halladay (the goalie on Liverpool’s lacrosse team) offer ample support.
Sala, Ludwig, Zach Khatib and Jordan Caviness gives Liverpool a solid core in the secondary that could line up at corner or safety, but it will be more difficult replacing Monk and his strong right leg, though junior Augie Holekamp will give it a try.
One big negative in the 2014 schedule is not having rival Baldwinsville on it, though the two teams did scrimmage last Saturday. Liverpool opens its season Friday at Corcoran and goes to Central Square on Sept. 12, teams that Mancuso said the Warriors haven’t faced in years.
After that, four of the Warriors’ five remaining games are at LHS Stadium, including its “Star Wars Cup” battle with its other big rival, Cicero-North Syracuse, on Sept. 26. The only break in that homestand is an Oct. 3 rematch with CBA at Alibrandi Stadium.
The goal, said Mancuso, remains that sectional title which has eluded Liverpool throughout the millennium, and he added that the strong overall makeup of his players will help in that quest.
“We’re young, yes, but this team has the capability to win a championship,” he said. “They have good character, and that goes a long way.”