Sep 02, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Cicero-North Syracuse football head coach Steve Ellis admits that, at least once each day, thoughts of the last minute of the 2007 Section III Class AA championship game will drift into his mind.
How could it not?
Ahead 21-20, poised to win its first-ever sectional title, Ellis and the Northstars watched that dream get snatched away. West Genesee quarterback Tim Moran drove his team down the field, setting up Luke Cometti’s field goal with one second left that gave the Wildcats a 23-21 win — and propelled WG to an eventual state championship.
“It still hurts,” said Ellis. “But I don’t dwell on it. It doesn’t bother me, and it doesn’t bother the team, either.”
What is of concern is how a terrific group of seniors, including Laquan James, Steven Ianzito, Anthony Dolson and Jeff Falvey, get replaced as the 2008 season kicks off Friday night at Central Square.
Ellis said he has a team that doesn’t mind being physical, but that might have a durability problem, based on the fact that some players didn’t go all-out to do strength and conditioning in the off-season.
At least on offense, new faces are everywhere. To succeed Ianzito at quarterback, CNS is turning to junior Ryan Lacey, who is the same kind of running and passing threat Ianzito proved to be. Ellis said that Lacey is smart, tough and carries a cool demeanor.
James, Dolson and Richie Lickfield made for a formidable backfield. It falls on quick senior Vince St. James (he runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash) to provide the big-play spark, with Tom Padula, Artie Cooper and Anderson Lovell offering help. Corey Barnes and Quinton Mitchell are likely to split time at fullback.
Don’t be surprised to see Lacey throwing it often to Chad Dubiel, who returns at wide receiver. Two highly-touted juniors, Austin Hyde and Jaquan Jones, are ready to step up, with Nick Spadaro and Marcus Ellis adding further depth. Replacing Falvey at tight end is a taller task, but Justin Thompson (6-4, 250 pounds) and Austin Morris (225 pounds) are ready for it.
Unlike the turnover at the skill positions, CNS returns three starting offensive linemen. Senior captain Chris Anderson (257 pounds) enters his third year at guard, with 330-pound Lawrence Briggs at the other guard spot and Rob McCarthy (237 pounds) at tackle.
Mike Frateschi (216 pounds) and Nick Francisco (200 pounds) are the candidates to start at center, while Anthony Guidetti (235 pounds) could take the other tackle spot if 336-pound Sean Pease does not.
CNS has a tempting option on its four-man defensive front — namely, putting Pease and 370-pound sophomore Tawane Williams together. Combined, that’s 700 pounds of immovable force in the middle of the line which could tie up guards and centers and stuff the run.
Also, Guidetti and Mike Wright could make for smaller options at tackle, while Thompson and Austin Morris make for imposing pass rushers at the end spots.
Lovell and Matt West combine to start at outside linebacker, with Mitchell or Barnes working in the middle. Cooper is a returning starter at cornerback, shoring up a secondary where Sean McKenna and Xavier Richardson are pushing for field duty against Hyde, St. James and Jones.
And the Northstars still have its kicking option in junior Andrew Falvey, who has grown four inches to 6-8 in the off-season. HIs 20-yard field goal at the wire beat West Genesee 30-27 the first time they played in ’07, and his successful extra point late in the sectional final rematch put CNS ahead again — but that ended differently.
Having worked so hard to climb to the top of the Class AA football ranks, the Northstars now aim to stay there.
“This is a validating season,” said Ellis. “The athletic ability is there, and there’s enough experience returning in spots. They’re good enough to get us where we want to go. We just want to continue to improve and stay there (at the top).”