Aug 27, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
To put it mildly, the three seasons that the Skaneateles football team spent in the Section III Class C ranks were eventful.
One season was perfect – but ended in accusations of recruiting and Section III throwing them out of the playoffs. The next season was just as good and produced a first sectional title in 20 years. And the third involved a rash of untimely injuries that led to a quick post-season exit.
Now, all of that is over, and the Lakers are back where it feels like it belongs – in Class B, playing its long-time rivals and neighbors once again, with plenty of motivation to prove that its recent success was not solely based on facing smaller schools.
“We want it even more now,” said senior lineman Zach Schneider.
Just as importantly, there wasn’t a coaching change. After going through three different head men in three years, Skaneateles has Mike Olley back for a second season.
In 2013, Olley’s side went 5-2 in the regular season, but those injuries (seven starters missed time at one point or another) left the Lakers short-handed going into the Class C playoffs, and General Brown beat them 49-7 in the opening round on its way to the sectional championship.
A similar run of bad luck might prove catastrophic this fall, not just due to the move to Class B, but also because Skaneateles carries a 28-man roster and does not have a JV team with which to find depth if it’s needed.
Olley said that, during pre-season practices, he’s limited contact as much as possible.
“We can’t go live very much,” he said. “If we do, we get kids hurt.”
But as a whole, the Lakers can prove quite potent, especially in the passing game, where quarterback Devin Callahan will run the show.
It was an injury to Tyler Parr early in the 2013 season that put Callahan under center as a sophomore. That experience proved valuable, and now the 6-foot, 190-pound junior is set to air it out, especially since, as Olley put it, he doesn’t possess a lot of mobility.
“His forte is that he’s really smart,” said Olley. “He reads defenses well and makes good decisions.”
As a traditional drop-back passes, Callahan fits right into the Lakers’ spread offense, which will traditionally line up with four receivers. Connor Hill will draw the most attention, but the presence of Tommy Hagen, Zach Blair, Griffin Lawson and Gene Hackler in the rotation will keep defenses from double or triple-teaming Hill.
And yes, Skaneateles will run the ball, too. Between Noah Clifford, defensive standout Aubrey Leverich and Chittenango transfer Noah Cliff, the Lakers have a trio of backs to split the carries out of a single-back set.
Schneider, who sits at 285 pounds, is one of two returning offensive linemen, starting at tackle along with 220-pound left guard Jake Sherman to protect Callahan’s blind side. Sophomore Pat Greenfield steps in at right guard, with Justin Clark likely to start at center and an open battle to see who will start the season at right tackle.
On defense, the Lakers could use many different sets, including a 3-5, and have players such as Mercado (6-foot, 190 pounds) and Hackler (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) that could move from end to linebacker to safety, depending on the situation.
Schneider, nose tackle Don McLean and sophomore tackle Joey McIntyre are planted on the line, while Leverich, who led Skaneateles in tackles a season ago, gives them a strong presence at middle linebacker, flanked by Sherman and Greenfield. A solid secondary includes Hill and Lawson at the corner spots, with Blair and Hagen part of the safety rotation.
The Lakers’ return to Class B begins next Friday night, when Chittenango visits Hyatt Stadium. Then, on Sept. 12, Skaneateles goes to Marcellus to renew that long-time rivalry, immediately followed by reunions with Westhill (Sept. 19) and Solvay (Sept. 26) before the month is out.
Ollie said his players will get charged up renewing the same kind of clashes Skaneateles teams in other sports enjoy throughout the school year. Whether that enjoyment leads to a league and sectional title push will depend on how well the Lakers scout this new set of opponents.
“A lot of other teams (we face) don’t run the kind of offense we do,” said Ollie. “But we also have to be able to adjust on the fly. A lot of things will have to go right in order to win a title.”