Aug 27, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
After 14 years of various assistant coaching positions in high school football, Mike Olley wanted to have some time to enjoy his long-awaited chance to take over as head coach of a varsity program at Skaneateles.
He just didn’t have time.
Hired in June after Joe Sindoni left to take over the floundering program at Cicero-North Syracuse, Olley crammed what is normally eight months of off-season preparation into two in order to be ready when practices for the 2013 season commenced on Aug. 19.
He said the work has gone “seven days a week”, ranging from the program’s annual summer camp to seven-on-seven drills the team has made an off-season staple to work in the weight room.
“The speed with which we had to get everything done is both good and bad,” said Olley. “It was a whirlwind, but it was fun and very cool.”
What Olley inherits is something very different from what Skaneateles possessed just a few seasons ago. A 19-1 mark over the last two years, and a Section III Class C championship in 2012 (the program’s first in 20 years), tends to change expectations a bit.
Olley is the Lakers’ fourth varsity coach in five years, but he isn’t burdened with the responsibility of building up a long-time loser, or cleaning up following rampant off-the-field controversy.
Instead, Olley seeks to benefit from a strong system already in place. He made it clear that he has no intention of touching the spread-formation, pass-happy offense that smashed all of the school’s record books with Troy Green and Conor Herr at quarterback.
“It makes more sense to adapt my style of coaching than the other way around,” he said. “This style was so effective (in recent years). Why not keep it?”
To succeed Herr under center, the Lakers turn to senior Tyler Parr, who waited his turn and now finally get his chance. At 6-0 and 200 pounds, Parr, said Olley, possesses a strong arm, a must in this system, given how often Skaneateles will pass the ball.
“He can really throw,” said Olley. “He’s working on read progressions, but he’s really accurate and can get the ball into (tight) spots.”
And even though top receiver Jake Cooney also graduated, the Lakers don’t lack for targets. Collin Jones could take over as the main threat, but junior Connor Hill is close behind, with Mark Goetzmann also returning and 6-foot-3 junior Griffin Lawson adding further depth.
Max Weiss, the Lakers’ top running back in 2012, is gone, but senior Matt Lee should step right in, as Olley has praised him for his work in the weight room and aggressiveness.
Lee will run behind a big, imposing offensive line that Olley said reminded him of Baldwinsville, a team he often faced while as an assistant coach at Liverpool in the early 2000s.
Sepp Martin, at 280 pounds, and Cooper Pitman, at 245 pounds, are returning starters at guard, flanking center Aubrey Leverich, who checks in at 225 pounds. Jake Sherman, at 260 pounds, and Zach Schneider, at 245 pounds, round out the line at tackle.
Defensively, Skaneateles will work from a five-man front most of the time. Pitman, Schneider and Dan McLean are part of the tackle rotation, while John Parsons and Conor Gray give the Lakers some speed at the end spot to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
This leaves room for just two linebackers, and Lee and Leverich will see most of the time there. Lawson, who bulked up 25 pounds in the off-season, and Goetzmann make for tall, quick safeties, helping on pass coverage while Jones and Hill work at the corner spots. The Lakers’ kicking game could prove productive, as senior Colin Alexander has a range up to 40 yards.
Things kick off next Friday night at Hyatt Stadium with a visit from Canastota, a Class C West division newcomer. Both the Raiders and the Lakers’ lone non-league opponent, Homer (on Sept. 13), should give Skaneateles tough, physical tests before league play resumes Sept. 20 against Hannibal.
Olley said that, while it isn’t said out loud, anything less than another league and sectional title might prove disappointing among Skaneateles players, not to mention fellow students and members of the community.
“We’ve got an incredible amount of athletes and talent here,” he said. “It’s nice to be around a program where you expect to win.”