Coaching football never gets old, even if you’re one of the longest tenured coaches in Section VI.
John Faller, who has 179 wins and two state titles in his 26 seasons at Sweet Home, welcomed the new season on Monday.
“I don’t think the excitement ever ends because I’ve got a new bunch of kids,” said Faller. “They’ve kind of caught onto the program as the years have gone by, but now it’s their turn on the varsity.”
The Panthers have won five straight Section VI championships.
“It’s a new group of seniors. This is their year to find out what their legacy is going to be. They’re carrying a bull’s-eye for the last five years, we’ll see if these juniors and seniors can do it.”
Sweet Home’s five-year title run also includes five straight trips to the Class A Far West Regionals to face the champions of Section V (Rochester area).
Sweet Home faced Rochester private school power Aquinas in each regional. The two years Sweet Home won, it went on to win the state title. Aquinas won the other three, twice going on to win the state championship.
This year, however, Aquinas has been moved up to Class AA by Section V.
Following a 9-1 season that ended at the Ralph with a tough loss to Sweet Home, Williamsville South was back in business on the first day of preseason work. The Billies are thankful that while they lost a big chunk of last year’s roster, senior quarterback Trent Ferguson is back for another season in the horned helmet.
After transferring from Sweet Home High School, Ferguson – whose frame and skill conjure comparisons to Cam Newton – led Williamsville South in 2011 with his arm and legs. The Sweet Home athletes, his former classmates, constantly remind him of their 28-14 victory.
“I hang out with those guys every weekend and all they do is talk about it,” Ferguson said. “That’s definitely motivation.”
It was the Panthers’ second straight win in the championship game over Williamsville South.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound quarterback is aiming to stop the streak at five. While Sweet Home lost its standout quarterback (Jordan Johnson, who now is at the University at Buffalo), Ferguson knows his team lost a ton of talent, too (among the list of notable players are All-WNY first-teamer T.J. Scamurra and Cody Stumpf). Ferguson’s team faces a tall task in league play.
“We’re definitely not in the best shape that we could be, but we’re getting better,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of good athletes, got a lot of talent. We’re young but I think we’ll be able to get it done this year.
“We have players that, if they touch the ball, they can score from anywhere on the field. I think we’ll be very explosive.”
South head coach Kraig Kurzanski has faith in his squad.
“We talk about winning our league, winning sectionals and winning the state championship,” Kurzanski said. “Those are our goals at all times.
“I think we have some good football players. They’re unknown commodities, but I think our guys can really play.”
The Billies acquired a huge talent this offseason: Wide receiver Shaquille Nettles, who transferred from South Park. Nettles gives Ferguson a major weapon.
“He’s a fantastic athlete,” Ferguson said. “You throw the ball anywhere in his range and he’s going to come down with it.”
There’s no good way to put a positive spin on an 0-9 season, but with the track record Riverside football owns, the Frontiers are hoping to look past a down year after a Class AA North title and several Harvard Cups.
A new coach has improved the morale of the team, while senior quarterback Justice Feggans has returned to the team. He was dismissed from the team earlier in his career. Urged on by his family, he wants to give football another go in his last high school season.
“I had to play football,” he said. “It’s my first love.”
With a new coaching staff in place, led by head coach Jose Rodriguez, Riverside is putting away its double-wing, option offense in favor of a spread attack.
“What the double-wing did was use deception and speed, where now we’re just going to be using our speed,” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to get to the outside because we already got our receivers out there.”
Alden hit the field today at 9:15 a.m, but coach Dick Diminuco said he woke up at 4:30 because he was so excited. The Bulldogs were the No. 1 small school last season and advanced to the Far West Regionals for the second straight year.
Starpoint’s coaches and players spent part of Monday’s practice talking about last year’s 5-4 record and what might have been.
The Spartans lost games by a mere eight, six, four and four points.
“Today, and what we’re stressing the whole camp, is ‘it’s the little things.’ When you’re losing by less than a touchdown, it’s not big things,” said coach Al Cavagnaro. “It’s just people doing what they’re supposed to do, stepping the right way, carrying out your fakes. We’re going to practice things ad nauseam. Nobody is blowing us out.
“We lost by eight points to Bennett. In the last two years, we’ve been ahead of Sweet Home going into the fourth quarter. We lost to [Class AA] Lockport by four. We’re there, we’re right there,” he said.
The Spartans are likely to be without standout linebacker R.J. Hernandez, who suffered a concussion this summer at a camp.
The first day teams can scrimmage other schools is in its traditional spot as Scrimmage Saturday will be Aug. 25. The season begins prior to Labor Day, before most schools have held classes, on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. Two teams (Clarence and Riverside) will open the season on Sunday, Sept. 2 in the special Carrier Classic at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.