September 4, 2008
Opening act: Homer visits CHS
Purple Tigers hoping to build off late 2007 surge
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland High head coach Dave Darrow, running his team through drills here, hopes to improve on last year’s 4-5 record in his second season at the helm.
By TANEY BEAUMONT
If you saw the Cortland High football team play during the second half of last season, you’ll have an idea of what to expect this fall.
So says Purple Tigers head coach Dave Darrow, whose team opens its season by hosting rival Homer Central at 7 p.m. Friday at Moiseichik Field.
The Purple Tigers won three of their last four games last season, including a win at Homer to conclude that campaign. The lone setback was a hard-fought 28-13 post-season road loss to eventual Section 3 Class A champion and state semifinalist Carthage.
A total of 22 players, 20 of them seniors, return from that squad. That includes 11 Purple Tigers who at least saw appreciable time and some starts on offense and 11 (some the same players as on offense) in similar circumstances on defense.
“We’ll use the same offensive and defensive sets as last year, some I formation, Power-I, pro sets right and left, some triples and twins (receivers) on offense and, on defense, four- and five-man fronts,” Darrow said.
“I think our defense will be our strength this season, and we’d better be able to run the ball — our passing game is a question mark, we’ll be a ball-control team. Our special teams will be solid. It will be like the second half of last season, only better.”
Last year’s leading rusher, senior fullback Josh Morehouse (5-9, 200 pounds), is back, having gained 466 yards on 112 carries and 10 touchdowns a year ago He scored a team-high 68 points in all, caught 11 passes for 93 yards and earned first-team All-Section 3 Class A American honors.
Sharing the tailback spot will be seniors Brandon Fitzgerald (5-8, 165) and Corby Reynolds (5-8, 165). Fitzgerald picked up 293 yards on 72 carries with a pair of TDs and also caught eight passes for 126 yards and two more scores last fall. Reynolds covered 295 yards on 52 totes.
Senior Andrew Foster (5-8, 185), who will rotate at fullback with Morehouse, gained 250 yards on 45 carries with three TDs (18 total points) a year ago.
Also back with starting experience on offense are sophomore Z-Back/wide receiver Dyquann Barlow (5-7, 155), who rushed for 102 yards on 29 carries and a TD in ‘07 and caught four passes for 82 yards and another TD; senior wide receiver Will Fickenscher (6-0, 160) who had three catches for 64 yards last season; senior tight end Justin Guerin (6-2, 195) and senior linemen Ian Spafford (6-1, 225), Kyle Field (5-10, 225) and Camerin Edgar (6-1, 2-6) and junior lineman Martin Stark (5-9, 230).
RETURNING STARTERS on the defense side are tackles Foster (second-team all-league) and Morehouse, noseguard Stark, defensive ends Edgar and Guerin, cornerback Fickenscher, free safety Fitzgerald, senior linebackers Reynolds, Garrett Wyatt (5-7, 155, also a running back) and Jake Bryson (5-11, 180, also a fullback) and senior defensive lineman/linebacker Mitchell Fitts (5-7, 184, also an offensive lineman).
Other returnees from last season are seniors Bayshawn Barlow (5-7, 155, running back-safety, Dyquann’s brother), Travis Block (5-8, 180 two-way lineman), Brian Foote (5-9, 168 wide receiver), Zach Huenink (6-0, 235, center-defensive lineman), Kyle Jackson (5-9, 190 two-way lineman), Joseph Marks (6-1, 340 two-way lineman), Cody Smith (6-0, 155 wide receiver) and Seth Turner (5-10, 195 two-way lineman).
This year’s captains will be Guerin, Reynolds and Wyatt.
Seniors out for the varsity for the first time this fall are Matt Porter (5-8, 145 quarterback-cornerback), Montana Sanders (5-9, 155 running back-linebacker) and Caleb Wright (6-0, 185 tight end-defensive end). Junior newcomers are Nick Baldassarre (5-9, 165 two-way lineman), Daniel Catalano (5-8, 185 two-way lineman), Blake Dudek (5-8, 150 running back-safety), Dennis Gallagher (5-9, 160 wide receiver-safety), Cody Hartmann (5-10, 190 two-way lineman), Ryann Hubbard (5-9, 170 wide receiver-cornerback), Shane McCaskill (5-10, 155 quarterback-safety), Jeff Moore (5-10, 155 tight end-linebacker), Josh Nelson (5-9, 140 wide receiver-safety), Jordan Prior (6-0, 160 wide receiver-cornerback), Brian Pristash (5-9, 145 quarterback-cornerback) and Jake Robillard (5-10, 150 wide receiver).
There are also two sophomore newcomers, Shakief Rivers (5-7, 170 fullback-linebacker) and Alex Stacy 95-7, 160 wide receiver-safety).
THE PROJECTED offensive starters for the Homer game, according to Darrow, are Guerin at tight end, Stark at right tackle, Edgar at right guard, Huenink at center, Block at left guard, Field at left tackle, Fickenscher at wideout (X-back), Dyquann Barlow at slotback, Fitzgerald at tailback, Morehouse at fullback and McCaskill or Porter at quarterback.
On defense, Darrow projected Guerin and Edgar at defensive ends, Foster and Stark the tackles, Wyatt, Bryson, Wright and Reynolds the linebackers, Fitzgerald the free safety and Fickenscher and Stacy the cornerbacks (with Dyquann Barlow also a cornerback possibility).
On special teams, Porter will handle the punting and placekicking, Wright the kickoffs, with Dyquann Barlow and Stacy the return men.
The key losses from last year’s squad are two-time first-team all-league offensive lineman Matt Pitcher (who was also a defensive lineman), first-team defensive back Nate Thomas (running back), second-team defensive lineman Coty Cute (running back), second-team center Brad Rogers (defensive lineman), honorable-mention kicker Levi Walrath (split end and defensive back, four grabs for 102 yards and a TD), honorable-mention defensive back Steve Wright (also a split end) and quarterback A.J. Meldrim (52-of-106 passing for 647 yards, with four TDs and 16 interceptions).
“Fulton and Jamesville-DeWitt look like the top teams in the league this season, with Fowler a dark horse,” Darrow said. “We’d better finish in the top half. In fact, we want to host and win a playoff game. We also want to be in every game with a chance to win.
“I think we’ll be in the middle, working our way toward the top,” he added. “I also think that the better Class A teams in the section are on the other side (A National), with Whitesboro, New Hartford and Camden. Carthage should also be pretty good.
East Syracuse-Minoa, Mexico and Oswego are the other A American squads, the latter playing down from Class AA and thus ineligible for the league championship and sectionals.
“Overall, we have to be optimistic going in,” Darrow said. “The kids did a lot of off-season work, have worked hard in practice and we feel like we’re improving. Homer is a better game for us at the end of the season (visiting Cortland won 27-18 in last year’s season finale). If you don’t play well to start the season, you have a hard time getting your kids up for awhile. When it’s at the end, whoever loses cries, and a week later it’s all over.”
In addition to his head coaching duties, Darrow is also in charge of the quarterbacks. Tom Murphy is his defensive coordinator and offensive line coach, and Pete Reif is the special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach. New to the varsity staff this season are Pat Cavallario (defensive line) and Chris DeMarco (secondary for the varsity and junior varsity).
Eric Prior is back as the head coach and running backs coach for the JV squad, assisted by Paul Thomas, Darrow’s son Zach and newcomer Matt Martins.
Brian Tasselmyer returns as modified head coach, again assisted by Joe DiSanto and Joe Nicholas plus new additions Jim Kendall and Rod Potter.
Cortland High Schedule
Sept. 5- *Homer, 7; 12- at Mexico, 7; 19- FULTON, 7; 26- at East Syracuse-Minoa, 6:30.
Oct. 3- OSWEGO, 7; 10- JAMESVILLE-DEWITT (Homecoming), 7; 17- at Fowler, 4; 24- Sectionals-Crossover, TBD; 31- Sectionals-Crossover, TBD.
*- Non-league games.
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