August 19, 2008
CHS, Homer gridders get going
Veteran Tigers are pumped up
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Alex Stacy runs through the scoop and score drill during opening day of Cortland High football practice. Behind Stacy is Caleb Wright and Luke Claiser.
The numbers are looking good for the Cortland High football team, which began practice for the 2008 season Monday afternoon.
A total of 70 players were on hand for the opening session under second-year head coach Dave Darrow and his staff, split almost evenly between the varsity (36, including 25 returnees from last year) and junior varsity squads. It all had a familiar ring for the coaching staff, who had seen most of those same players for most of the summer.
“We had a very good turnout during the summer,” said special teams coordinator-wide receivers coach Pete Reif, head coach Dave Darrow unavailable for comment. “The kids had a choice of one of two weight-lifting and agility sessions, morning or evening, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and we had on-field sessions, going over fundamentals, on Wednesday evenings.
“A good number were involved, the most we’ve had recently, and there were modified kids there, too. We also had some clinics during the year, keeping them excited about football. We had some good success last season, giving the state semifinalists all they wanted in sectionals, and have a chance to be a really good team this year.”
The Purple Tigers put up some decent numbers last season, finishing 3-3 in Section 3’s A American Division and winning three of their last four games for a 4-5 overall finish, the lone setback, as referenced by Reif, by 28-17 to eventual sectional Class A champion and state semifinalist Carthage. The 2007 campaign ended with a 27-18 road win against rival Homer Central, which CHS faces in a 7 p.m. start Sept. 5 at Moiseichik Field to begin its 2008 schedule.
“The kids are pumped up to play Homer,” Reif said. “They’re a little more excited to get into the weight room for our sessions knowing that we play them in the first game.”
For the first day of practice, the Purple Tigers wore helmets only in accordance with state regulations. Play books were handed out, and work was done on blocking and tackling, reviewing the rules, starting to work on the first set of plays, offense and defensive work and strength and agility sessions. Due to Monday’s hot conditions and in accordance with sectional and state guidelines, multiple water breaks were included in the schedule.
CHS will practice from 3 to 7 p.m. through Friday, with Thursday being the first day in full pads. The team will be split on alternating days between the weight room and classroom (chalk talks) between 3 and 3:40 p.m. On-field work will take place from 4 to 7 p.m.
Saturday, when practice will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., will be the first day full contact is allowed. Next week’s practices will also run from 3 to 7 p.m., leading up to a home scrimmage against New Hartford at 10 a.m. that Saturday (Aug. 30).
The Cortland staff has instituted a new concept this season in lieu of an intrasquad scrimmage, with senior skits (“A lot of us had to do them in college,” Reif said) slated for Thursday of next week.
The Purple Tigers were forced to travel to Watertown for their pre-season scrimmage last year, and Reif said that “being home will give the players a chance to sleep in a little more, and they won’t have tired legs from a long bus ride.
“They’ll be excited because it will be their first chance to go against another team. Having it at home will just be a lot more convenient.”
The CHS staff was visited July 7-8 by University of Delaware defense coordinator/safeties coach Nick Rapone, who conducted a mini-clinic. “He was able to give us a lot more of the ins and outs, the little details,” Reif said. He also went into playing each position on defense.”
This year, the Class A American will have Oswego as an official member (playing all of the other league squads but, as an AA program ineligible for the championship or the playoffs). In addition to Cortland, the league also consists of East Syracuse-Minoa, Fulton, Jamesville-DeWitt and Mexico. Chittenango has dropped down to Class B for this season.
“We were a young team last year, but did pretty well,” Reif said. “We’re more experienced this season, with a lot of players back, and have been picked by some in the league to finish strong. But we still have some catching up to do.
“Fulton is good year in and year out, and has to be the favorite. Jamesville-DeWitt finished strong and has some good players back.”
This will be the final season that Cortland will play its home games on grass, Moiseichik Field slated to be converted to a turf surface in time for the start of the 2010 schedule. “We’re all pretty excited about the new field,” Reif said. “It will be in the same location, and we’re looking forward to it.”
In addition to Darrow and Reif, Tom Murphy returns as the varsity squad’s defensive coordinator and offensive line coach. New to the staff are defensive line coach Pat Cavallario and Chris DeMarco, a secondary coach for both the varsity and junior varsity squads.
Eric Prior returns as the head JV coach, with Paul Thomas returning as an assistant. Zach Darrow joins the JV staff after being a modified assistant last fall, and Matt Martins is also new to the JV staff, along with DeMarco.
Brian Tasselmyer is once again the modified coach, with Joe DiSanto and Joe Nicholas back as assistants. New to the modified staff this season are assistants Jim Kendall and Rod Potter.
Plenty of fresh faces for Trojans
Under sunny skies, more than 70 Homer Central football players stepped onto George W. Butts Field for the first day of pre-season practice as Trojan head coach Gary Podsiedlik begins his 19th season at the helm.
The breakdown is nearly equal between varsity and junior varsity players, but there are just 10 seniors returning from the 2007 season in which Homer was 4-5 overall and 4-3 in Section 3 Class B West Division play.
“We thought the numbers might be a little higher, but we have a good number of players for both the varsity and jayvee squads,” Podsiedlik said. “What was really nice was the increased numbers of participants in the summer weight room. There were a lot of kids dedicated to working on increasing their speed and agility.
“We do only have 11 players in all that saw varsity action last year,” he continued. “But, we have a number of good players coming up from the junior varsity team and some of those guys will definitely get a chance to make an early impact at earning starting positions on offense and defense.”
Homer will open the season on Sept. 5 with a non-league visit to rival Cortland High.
The backfield is where most of the experience returns.
Senior quarterback Joey Rivers heads that group with senior running backs K.J. Reese (FB/TB), Brandon Simonetta (TB/FL), Mike Park (FB), plus senior wide receiver/running back Kane Hartnett those with starting experience. Junior Aleks Glover (RB/LB) saw time as a sophomore in 2007 and should see more time as a junior, but there are a lot of possible positions where he could be starter.
The only linemen with experience as starters are seniors Alex Duell and Kyle Griffin, so those two will need to mentor a number of new faces.
“We are set well at the skill positions,” Podsiedlik said. “The offensive line and the defense is where we will have a number of greenhorns that we need to get some experience and grow up as quickly as possible.
“That is the same scenario on defense,” Podsiedlik continued. “We have experience at cornerback and some at linebacker, but there will be a lots of new faces making the adjustment to the quicker varsity pace on that side of the ball as well. How good we do this season with be determined by how quickly we learn what to do on both sides of the ball.”
Some of the incoming juniors who could make an early impact are John Sciera at quarterback, Demitrius Nelson at wide receiver, Jake Morris at tailback, lineman Adam Gordon, lineman Ryan Murray, lineman Carter O’Gorman and lineman Bo Eccleston. There are also four sophomores who are also going to get a shot at making the varsity team as starters. Zach Hatfield (TE), Joe Marchetti (OL/LB), Brent Fox (OL/LB) and Andy Parker (FB/LB) are going to have through the Watermelon Bowl to make a statement.
“These sophomores could be starters,” said Podisedlik. “If they don’t earn a starting spot, they will be on the JV team because they will get more experience as starters there then coming off the bench later in varsity games. The good thing is that these guys are getting a good tryout at the varsity level and will help our program as well as themselves. All four bring a very good positive attitude into pre-season.
“All the seniors will need to step-up and be leaders,” Podsiedlik added. “All the returning starters are definitely needed to be leaders. There will be number of players battling for starting positions and that will be good all the way around.”
The practice schedule is tentative with changes possible, but will continue with a double session today (8:30 a.m.-noon, 2-5 p.m.) before going to a single session (9 a.m.-1 p.m.) Wednesday. Thursday will be the first double session with pads, but there will still be no contact amongst the players with a Friday morning session.
Saturday becomes more serious with the first official day of contact during the single session.
Next week the split between varsity and JV practices will begin, A full morning session will take place Monday with the varsity and JVs together. In the afternoon, the varsity will practice from 2-4:30 p.m. with the JVs going 4-6 p.m.
The annual Watermelon Bowl is slated for Aug. 26. The varsity will practice from 10 a.m. until noon before returning at 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. The JVs will meet from 4-7 p.m. The actual Watermelon Bowl will see the JV Blue-White scrimmage from 5-6 p.m. with the Varsity Blue-White scrimmage from 6-7 p.m. This is the one open practice for parents to come and watch the Trojans.
Aug. 27-28 will be double sessions with a single session Aug. 29, but the times are yet to be determined. This is where the varsity and JV practices really become split.
Aug. 30 with be a multi-team varsity scrimmage at Butts Field from 9 a.m. until noon with Dryden and Watkins Glen from Section 4 and Onondaga Central and Jordan-Elbridge from Section 3. There is a possibility that LaFayette will also be in attendance due to its scrimmage falling through.
The JV team will scrimmage with Dryden at Watkins Glen at the same time.
Coach Podsiedlik will be joined on the sidelines this season by returning assistant coaches Tom Cottrell (offensive coordinator) and Jim Whidden along with volunteer assistants David Podsiedlik, Brennan Briggs and Brian Hart. George Schneider is the new JV head coach with Geoff Sorenson returning as an assistant coach along with newcomer Mike DeMattei. JV volunteer assistant is Trevor O’Gorman. When the Junior High (Modified) season gets underway, Mark Ferrito will return as head coach with John McGrath and Rob Nasiatka as his assistants.
The next three weeks will be crucial in the development of this young Trojan squad and everyone is working towards a successful opener.
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