The Rome Free Academy Black Knights will seek their first win of the football season when they host the Whitesboro Warriors at 7 tonight at the Stadium.
Sophomore quarterback Riley Brawdy will start for the Black Knights, as senior Isaac Whishart did not practice this week after being injured in the opener.
RFA, which is in Class AA-2, will take on the visitors from the Class A South. Whitesboro defeated Auburn 33-12 at home last Friday to start its season. The Warriors were ruthlessly efficient on the ground, with 365 yards and four touchdowns. The team attempted six passes and scored on one.
The last time the two teams met in the regular season was a 15-14 RFA win in 2013.
In other 7 o’clock games tonight, Camden hosts Oneida and Vernon-Verona-Sherrill is at Mexico in a pair of Class B East contests, while Westmoreland visits Sauquoit Valley for a Class D crossover game and Clinton is on the road against Canastota in a Class C South/East matchup.
On Saturday, Adirondack is home against Holland Patent at 2 p.m. for a Class C South/East game.
Brawdy came in for the last Knights’ drive in the first game and piloted the offense to a touchdown. He immediately hit senior receiver Cudhea for 32 yards.
Later, he capped the drive by completing a pass to Cudhea from 25 yards after a pump fake got the receiver behind the defense in the end zone. A two-point conversion attempt to win the game was snuffed out as he leaked out into the end zone during a double reverse.
“Riley definitely has the tools of both Chris and Isaac,” said RFA first-year head coach Jake DerCola of Chris Orton and Isaac Whishart, the team’s other two quarterbacks, both of whom also played in the first game, a 13-12 loss to Nottingham High of Syracuse. “He can run when he has confidence, and he definitely throws a good ball,” DerCola said.
The team will add Cam Williams, who will start at wide receiver after missing the first game due to a lack of enough practices to be eligible. He is also available as a safety in some passing situations, the coach noted.
Still out is Aidan Hunzinger. He is still recovering from a knee injury, DerCola said.
“We have to learn a little on the fly,” said the coach of the team’s offensive approach against Whitesboro. He intends to use different formations to force the defense into the looks he wants.
Defensively, “we’re going to load the box up to stop their run,” he said, noting the Warriors’ frequent and successful runs. The key, he said, is to contain the offense. “Make them drive, stay away from the big plays.” The players will have to continue to improve their tackling and will be challenged mentally to adjust to different formations.
Whitesboro coach Tom Schoen, the winningest football coach in Section III history, said the team will stick to two-back sets with a straight forward approach. Other than a 90-yard touchdown on a reverse last week, the team tends to stick to simple plays that overload tacklers with extra blockers such as pulling linemen, he said.
The Warriors are led on offense by quarterback Joe Panuccio, described by Schoen as a field general with deep knowledge of the team’s game plan. There’s also the speedy threats Zach Hoage, Lucas Casab and Joe Ruggiero.
The team has to cut down on penalties and avoid turnovers, Schoen said.
Defensively, the team uses odd-man fronts and leans on cornerbacks Zach Britt and Edward Simpson. The linebacking corps is young but played well in the first game, the coach added.
Home opener for Camden
Camden kicks off its home campaign tonight against Oneida after opening its season with a 27-0 road loss to Class B East rival Chittenango on Aug. 30.
The Blue Devils turned the ball over six times last week, including five interceptions and a fumble. They allowed 313 yards of total offense, including 264 yards on the ground on 59 carries. Senior linebacker Wilson Christmas had 9 1/2 tackles to lead the Camden defense.
Oneida opened its season with a 26-20 victory over New Hartford on Aug. 30 at Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome. Steven Barrett ran for 157 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 18 carries to lead the Indians.
Camden defeated Oneida last season, 31-21.
Wildcats host Golden Knights
Adirondack begins its home campaign when it takes on Holland Patent on Saturday afternoon in Boonville.
Adirondack struggled in its season opener last Friday against Mount Markham, going down to a 56-8 defeat.
HP began its season with a 19-7 victory over Clinton on Saturday night at Whitesboro HIgh School. It was officially a home game for the Golden Knights, whose high school field is unavailable this fall due to major renovations being done there.
HP broke out to 13-0 lead against against the Warriors on a pair of first-quarter touchdown runs of 17 and 4 yards by Bryce Dare and Jason Haas, respectively, and added a 7-yard scoring pass from Nick Herringshaw to Josh Ernst in the third quarter. Haas rushed for 111 yards on 15 carries.
The Golden Knights breezed to a 42-0 victory over Adirondack when the teams met last year.
(Follow Steve Jones on Twitter @RDS_SteveJones during the RFA game as he tweets updates including scoring plays.)