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August 29, 2012

 

Opening act: Homer visits CHS

Purple Tigers will display new look

FootballBob Ellis/staff photographer
Senior quarterback Dillon Knecht completes a hand-off during Cortland High preseason practice session. Knecht will get his first varsity start when the Purple Tigers open the season Thursday, hosting rival Homer Central at 7p.m. at Moiseichik Field.

By TANEY BEAUMONT
Staff Writer

The Cortland High football team will have a new look in a new league this fall.
The Purple Tigers have moved from the Section 3 Class A American Division to the Class B West Division this season, and return 15 players from last year’s team complemented by 24 newcomers. CHS went 2-3 in league play and 3-5 in 2011, including a season-ending loss to Whitesboro in the first round of the Class A sectional playoffs.
Head coach Dave Darrow is optimistic heading into Thursday’s season-opener against visiting new league foe and old-time rival Homer Central in a 7 p.m. start at Moiseichik Field. CHS has won four of the past six match-ups with the Trojans, including last year’s 36-21 non-league victory at Butts Field in Homer.
“I think we’re pretty deep running the ball and at quarterback, with two very good ones,” said Darrow, who has 11 starters back (four on offense, seven on defense) from last season on his 39-player roster this fall. “I think we’ll play much better defense and will be capable of putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback. We’ll go more with a power-oriented offense and less with a spread, which we used last year, and can go with three-, four- or five-man fronts (on defense), depending on the situation.
“We have to be able to run the ball, maintain ball control and run the clock.. We have to play attack defense and put the pressure on. We have to stay turnover free, limit the penalties and stay away from mistakes,” he added.
Among the keys to Cortland’s success this season will be the team’s returning all-leaguers, all five of whom — like the rest of the veterans — are seniors this season.
Colin Walsh (6-0, 190 pounds) was a first-teamer at linebacker, returning two fumbles for touchdowns and will also be a running back this fall. Second-team honors went to running back-linebacker Andrew Potter (5-10, 180) and two-way lineman Corey Brown (5-10, 240), while tight end-defensive lineman Kevin Parker (6-1, 225) and tight end Josh Gutchess (6-4, 220) were accorded honorable mention.
Four 2011 first-teamers were lost to graduation. Tailback-linebacker Jonathan Prior rushed for 850 yards on 129 carries and five TDs and caught 29 passes for 248 yards and two more TDs. He also scored two six-pointers on fumble returns and one each on a kickoff return and a punt return. Quarterback-punter Devon Darrow the coach’s son, completed 85-of-157 passes for 1,1,92 yards and 14 touchdowns, with eight interceptions. He ran for 131 more yards on 75 carries and scored seven TDs.
Devon Darrow’s top target was wide receiver Qwuhail Barlow, who had 25 catches for 636 yards and nine TDs and was a cornerback on defense. His numbers included a state single-game record 321 yards on 11 receptions with four TDs in a loss to Whitesboro. Two-way lineman Mike Baldassarre is the other graduated first-teamer.
This year’s other returnees are tight end-defensive lineman Kody Cranston (6-3, 205), quarterback-cornerback Dillon Knecht (6-0, 180), wideout-cornerback Matt Kriever (5-11, 175), wideout-cornerback Pat McMahon (5-10, 170), running back-defensive lineman Andrew Price (5-8, 180), fullback-linebacker Eric Richardson (6-1, 205), wide receiver-cornerback Zach Sweet (5-9, 160), two-way lineman Justin Travis (5-10, 230), fullback-defensive lineman Paul Turco (5-10, 230) and running back-linebacker Nate Wright (5-10, 170).
This season’s captains are Potter and Walsh.
Senior newcomers to the varsity level this fall include Regan Ealey (5-11, 220 two-way lineman), Brian Hughes (6-4, 180 wideout-safety). Logan Lang (6-0, 185 two-way lineman) and Isaiah Prior (5-10, 185 wideout-cornerback).
The new juniors include two-way lineman Greg Brown (5-9, 230, no relation to Corey), fullback-linebacker Nick Cafararo (5-8, 165), two-way lineman Andrew Crosby (5-11, 350), fullback-linebacker Frank Dalton (5-9, 170), fullback-defensive lineman Tyrmaine Dugger (5-9, 180), running back-cornerback Alec Edwards (5-9, 150), wide receiver-cornerback Blayne George (5-9, 160), quarterback-safety Caden Giroux (5-9, 160), two-way lineman Jim Kendall (6-0, 185), two-way lineman Devon Lane (5-10, 185) and wideout-cornerback Quinn Mulherin (5-8, 155).
Also new to varsity play from the junior class are running back-linebacker Ted Phillips (5-11, 175), wideout-cornerback Daquan Pittman (6-1, 175), two-way lineman Paul Sabin (6-1, 205), tight end-linebacker Jordan Smith (5-11, 170), kicker-linebacker Mike Southwick (5-11, 170), wideout-cornerback Phil Speranza (5-9, 160), tight end-defensive lineman Jake Tinker (5-9, 150) and running back-linebacker Zach Whelan (5-10, 170). The lone sophomore on the squad, running back-cornerback Solomon Pittman (5-7, 155), is also a newcomer.
Offensively, the Cortland starting lineup for the opener will have Gutchess and Prior as wideouts,with Cranston the tight end, Travis at left tackle, Lane at left guard, Parker at center, Greg Brown at right guard, Corey Brown at right tackle, Knecht at quarterback, Cafararo at fullback and Potter at tailback.
On defense, McMahon and Prior will be the cornerbacks, Hughes the free safety, Walsh or Phillips the middle linebacker with Richardson and Cafararo also at linebacker slots, Whelan and Potter the defensive ends, Dugger the nose tackle, Turco the right tackle and Corey Brown the left tackle.
Solomon Pittman and Phillips will return kickoffs, Phillips also returning punts along with McMahon. Hughes will kick off and do the punting, and conversions and field goals will be handled by Southwick.
“Injuries will be a major concern for us,” Darrow said. “Two years ago we stayed relatively injury-free and were league champions, while last year we had a lot of injuries and didn’t do as well. I think we have more solid athletes than last year; our athleticism runs deeper.”
That should bode well against new Class B foes.
“The league looks strong. I think everyone is good. Chittenango has half the team back after being sectional champion,” said Darrow, Chittenango also reaching the state playoff semifinals in 2011. “Homer is stronger and looks good; Marcellus will be very strong, Westhill is fairly strong and I think Solvay is getting better. Cazenovia, who we play in a non-league game, may be the best B team in the section and Fowler (a Class A team, CHS’s other non-league opponent) has pretty much the same team back from last year.”
Darrow will double as CHS’s offensive coordinator again this season, with assistants Pete Reif and Paul Thomas sharing the defensive coordinator-special teams-line duties. Zac Darrow, Dave’s son, is the new head JV coach and offensive coordinator, assisted by staff newcomer Adam Collister (defensive coordinator). Joe DiSanto takes over from Zac Darrow as head modified coach, assisted by Joe Nicholas and Brandon Galutz.

 

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