Jul 15, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
An eternal challenge in high school football is trying to maintain consistency and continuity when the very nature of the sport involves having to deal with new challenges and new personnel.
Cazenovia has stayed at the top for more than two decades by adjusting to this reality better than anyone else, largely thanks to the work of a veteran coaching staff at all levels, led by varsity head coach Tom Neidl.
All told, the Lakers have won three of the last four Section III Class B championships, with the other claimed in 2011 by its Madison County neighbors from Chittenango.
Despite their proximity, and despite the natural rivalry borne out of that proximity (they met in the 2012 sectional final, which Cazenovia won 35-21), the Lakers and Bears play in separate Class B divisions, and will do so again in 2014, the only possible meeting to take place in the playoffs, should both get there.
Accustomed to roster turnover, Cazenovia must deal with the departure of 17 seniors, including Kevin Hopsicker, Andrew Vogl, Mike Nourse, Brad Lucas and Cody Westfall, from the 2013 team that won the sectional title and then pushed eventual state champion Maine-Endwell to the wire in a 42-41 regional classic.
The Lakers will do so in an expanded eight-team Class B East division. Holland Patent, after some time in Class C, returns to the B ranks, joining Oneida (whom the Lakers beat in the 2013 sectional final), Cazenovia, Central Valley Academy, Camden, Mexico, South Jefferson and Vernon-Verona-Sherrill.
Thus, Cazenovia’s entire regular-season schedule is against league foes. Four of the first six games are at home at Buckley-Volo Field, commencing with the Sept. 6 opener against Camden, with South Jefferson, Holland Patent and VVS also making visits. The rematch with Oneida concludes the regular season on Oct. 17 in a game Time Warner Cable Sports will broadcast.
As for Chittenango, who went 4-4 a season ago but missed out on the sectional playoffs, the picture in Class B West has changed, too, with the return of Skaneateles, who spent three years in Class C and, amid turmoil that included three coaching changes and a recruiting controversy, did win a sectional championship in 2012.
The Bears face those other Lakers in the season opener for both sides on Sept. 5 at Hyatt Stadium. Skaneateles replaces Cortland (who moved back to Class A) in the B West league, where Homer, Marcellus, Westhill, Solvay and Phoenix remain.
Chittenango’s lone non-league game is against Norwich Oct. 3. In fact, the Bears start with three straight on the road – at Skaneateles, Phoenix and Marcellus – before Homer visits on Sept. 25 for a Thursday-night Time Warner Cable broadcast.
Practices for fall sports begin on Aug. 18, with the football scrimmages set for Aug. 30 as Cazenovia goes to Marcellus and Chittenango greets Oneida. Again, the sectional finals (on Nov. 7 and 9) and the state finals (on Nov. 28 and 30) take place at the Carrier Dome.