WESTMORELAND — Getting back to the playoffs after a three-year absence is what 20-year Westmoreland veteran head football coach Tim Gates hopes to achieve for the 75th anniversary of Bulldogs football this season.
“We’re hoping we can be a little more competitive,” Gates said. “Hope to compete in our division.”
For the fall of 2019, the combined Westmoreland/Oriskany squad will be playing in the Class C South with games against Canastota, Southern Hills (Tully), Notre Dame of Utica, Mount Markham and Clinton. They also have two non-league games scheduled against Oswego and Adirondack.
Gates said Westmoreland is welcoming 33 players on this season’s roster with 10 of those players coming from neighboring Oriskany. Oriskany opted to combine with Westmo as opposed to playing 8-man football this season.
“I think this is a great thing,” Gates said. “The kids just want to play and this move gives them the chance to do that.”
Returning under center is junior David Piersall, with sophomore Devin Brown at the back up position.
“David started last year, as a sophomore,” Gates said. “I had a lot of sophomores who played a lot last year and took their lumps. But at least that year of experience will be worth something now. I think it will help David a lot; the game slows down the more you play it, so he’s got that year and also he’s going to be surrounded by good people and that should help.
Gates explained one of those people is senior captain Sean Klopfanstien, the team’s starting fullback. Junior Patrick Roberts will back him up. Also senior Nolan Bryant and Rich Holmes will see some starting time. Sophomore Austin Elwood and junior Nick Cook will also see some touches.
Junior Aiden Fabbio and senior Calvin Hooper at the widen receiver spots will also be valuable, along with juniors Cadyn Patterson and Quinlan Butler. First players on the ends include sophomores Aiden Kirk, Kayden Meashaw and Chris Schieble.
Gates continued to say he feels senior Javonn Springer and junior Jaden Oshel will also be assets to the offense at tight end, along with seniors Dom Cosimeno and Austin Daskiewich, and junior Tom Pick to help out Piersall.
“But what we’re really trying to figure out just now is what we have up front, tackle to tackle,” said Gates, as he leaned back in his chair. “We have three returners in senior Dylan Elwood, junior Kegan Kraeger, from Oriskany and senior Justin Michaels all played last year. And we have sophomore Jacob Ingersoll coming up.”
Also, Gates said he likes junior Austin Millington as a starting offensive linemen and defensive linebacker. Jacob Peck is also listed as a key returner, as is senior Mike Fiorini.
First-year lineman sophomores Joe Bulisheck, Ryan Frawley, Aiden Kirk, Dylan Tophoven, Ethan Myers and junior James Whittaker are the team’s back up, up front, and the Bulldog’s future.
Gates said there are a lot of guys he wants to get seasoned through special teams play.
“A lot of these guys worked hard in the weight room this summer and are on a good path right now,” he said. “We just need to get them some died experience.”
Like so many schools, Westmoreland/Oriskany has offensive players who also play defense. The offensive linemen play the defensive line, the running backs are typically linebackers and secondary players. Hence, the result with a roster of 33 players.
Gates is joined this season as he has been for the length of his career by assistant Coach Greg Williams, along with fifteen year Thomas R. Proctor high school football coach Jerry Florini, and coming over from Oriskany is Coach Eric Enos.
“Eric is taking it all in and learning our systems right now,” Gates said. “He’s got a good rapport with the kids, and I think him being a teacher at Oriskany is a good bridge to that end of it. We all like each other, work well together, we have no problems. It’s great.”
The Bulldogs begin their season at home Saturday, Sept. 7 against Jamesville-DeWitt at 2 p.m. in Westmoreland. On Saturday, Sept. 28, the home field will be in the new stadium at Oriskany High as the team hosts Southern Hills. That game is also set for 1 p.m.