Aug 28, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Having Naesean Howard around gave the West Genesee football program a higher profile in recent years, and his performance rated a spot on this fall’s Syracuse University squad.
But now that Howard is gone, the Wildcats, out to improve on a 3-5 mark in 2013 that included a first-round Section III Class AA playoff ouster by Liverpool, look forward to showing a few more dimensions on the offensive side of the ball.
“Whether (opponents) are ready or not, we’re going to have a more balanced attack,” said senior captain Pat Spiddle.
That hope largely stems from having Dashon Turner taking over full-time at quarterback. A season ago, Turner had to start three games when senior Bailey Gauthier was out due to injury, and head coach Joe Corley said that experience will prove quite valuable once this season gets underway.
It helps, too, that Turner has a strong set of receivers on hand. Will Northrop is a third-year starter at tight end, while Baldwinsville transfer Collin Taylor joins fast-rising Aaron Wierbinski and do-everything senior Colin BeVard to give the Wildcats plenty of options.
“Our passing game will be strong,” said Northrop.
And the intention is that the running game will thrive, too, but those hopes are now tempered a bit. Midway through the team’s intrasquad scrimmage last Wednesday night, Duane Rolfe, slated to be the starting tailback and already emerging as a team leader, injured his knee while getting tackled by several defenders.
The extent of Rolfe’s injury remains unknown, but his teammates were shaken up, and the rest of the scrimmage was canceled. Rolfe could return this season, but for now, that will mean more carries for Joey Vetter, who was splitting time with Rolfe before the injury.
“We hate to see this happen,” said Corley. “But we will move forward.”
Helping that task will be the presence of a veteran offensive line with just one starter (E.J. Northrop) gone from 2013. Both guard Mo Hussein and tackle Alex Tripodi are three-year starters, with Joe Brogan and John Lisi also returning in their starting spots and Jared Bivins moving into the starting rotation.
Defensively, what WG wants to improve is its pass coverage. While it was generally strong in the front seven in 2013, it gave up too many big plays through the air, and Corley and his coaches know that has to change if the Wildcats want to move into serious title contention.
That will mean more responsibility for BeVard, who will not just play at safety, but also handle WG’s kicking duties. BeVard and Vetter are joined by a strong rotation that includes Taylor, Michael Hanley and Ra-Qwon Clemons, who returns from a year away from football.
There’s less concern at linebacker, though, where senior Dalton Elias will challenge for All-Central New York honors. He’s joined by Spiddle, whose modest stature belies an intensity that is contagious on his teammates.
“He’s not big, but he’s got a big heart,” said Corley.
Though many of the same offensive linemen will go both ways, Corley said he wants to make sure that they’re not pulling too much double duty, so the likes of Hussein, Tripodi, Brogan and Lisi could get some much-needed rest.
While still in the Class AA-1 division, WG saw Henninger and Cicero-North Syracuse move out of the league, while Nottingham, Liverpool and Rome Free Academy moved in. The Wildcats open next Friday against Central Square, one of just three home games, with the others coming Sept. 26 against Corcoran and Oct. 3 against RFA.
To be successful, said Northrop, “we need to stay focused throughout the season.” Corley agreed, adding that some might not place WG among the list of top title contenders, but that it might suit his players just fine.
“We want to be a quiet contender,” said Corley. “Outside of our team, the expectations might be low, but we expect to do big things.”
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