Rome Free Academy will face its toughest challenge in the young football season tonight.
The Black Knights will play at 7 in Cicero-North Syracuse in the Northstars’ homecoming game. While the Knights have started 0-2 with losses to Nottingham (13-12) and Whitesboro (41-7), C-NS is 2-0 with victories of 47-6 over Christian Brothers Academy and 28-3 over Liverpool.
It will be both teams’ first Class AA-2 contest of the season.
Elsewhere tonight, Oneida visits Mexico, Camden travels to Cazenovia and Vernon-Verona-Sherrill is at New Hartford in a trio of Class B East games.
On Saturday, Westmoreland opens its home season seeking its first victory against Phoenix in a non-leaguer at 1.
In an unusual homecoming contest in Clinton at 1:30, the Warriors, who are playing 11-man football this season, will participate in an eight-man football game against non-league opponent Oxford Academy.
Oriskany kicks off its eight-man league season at 2 when it visits Cooperstown, while Adirondack is home at 2 for an 11-man Class C South/East contest. At 6:30, Holland Patent hosts Little Falls in a Class C South/East 11-man contest under the lights at Whitesboro High School.
RFA has used three quarterbacks in its first two games.
Senior Isaac Whishart started the first game, and is 4-for-12 passing with an interception. He has also run 14 times for 57 yards. Junior Christopher Orton is 9-for-17 passing for 113 yards and a touchdown with three runs for two yards. Sophomore Riley Brawdy started the second game, and is 11-for-18 passing with 145 yards and a touchdown as well as collecting 12 yards on six runs.
On the ground, senior Amir Williams leads Knights’ rushers with 127 yards on 27 carries but has not found the end zone yet. Among receivers, senior Anthony Cudhea has 13 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown and senior Cam Williams caught seven passes for 78 yards and one touchdown in his debut last week.
Defensively, junior Shane O’Connell leads the team with 20 tackles. Senior James Faso and junior Brennan Wells each have 13 tackles. All three are linebackers. The Knights have not recorded a sack in the first two games but have forced four turnovers.
The Northstars feature senior quarterback Conner Hayes, who has passed for 382 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. The running attack includes three backs with 100-plus yards rushing: senior Jaiquawn McGriff (182 yards and two TDs), sophomore Da-Ron Brown (123 yards) and senior Jeremiah Willis (118 and two TDs). The two top receivers are senior Shy’rel Broadwater (156 yards and four TDs) and senior Nate Geloff (148 and one TD).
RFA head coach Jake DerCola will continue to use multiple quarterbacks. “Whishart will probably get the start. All three could get playing time, depending how each plays.”
Offensively, “We’re going to try giving them different looks. They’re very aggressive so we have to pick our spots. If they give us something we have to take it.” He continued: “It’s doing our assignments. In the past two weeks there have been too many mental mistakes.”
The team will be without senior Brady Wood, who anchors the lines on both sides of the ball. He hurt his right knee in the second game and is awaiting assessment of the extent of the injury, DerCola said. On offense, junior Brandon Laribee will slide to tackle and senior Vito Rizzo will play guard. Defensively, sophomore Kyle Williamson moves to end and senior Collin Rockenstyre and Laribee will get snaps at tackle.
Junior receiver-linebacker Aidan Hunzinger, has missed the first two games with a knee injury and will not appear this week. He was just cleared to play and will be eased back in as he gets in game shape, the coach said.
To win, the RFA defense will “have to cover well. Their quarterback is one of the best in Section III if not the state. Our cornerbacks have to be on all the time.” The team will have to read the run-pass option properly. Rome’s linebackers have made the plays so far, he said, but, “There are more plays to make.”
C-NS head coach David Kline, is in his fourth year at the helm after a decade leading Henninger’s program. He has a team with many seniors in key positions, he noted. “They understand what we want.” Many of them are three-year varsity players and Hayes is a four-year starter at quarterback.
Offensively, the Northstars start from the shotgun, often in one-back sets. “We’ll run some power game if we need to and we’ll spread it out if we need to. We do whatever we need to to win,” said Kline. The team has spread the ball out to the running backs so far. “We don’t want to put the pounding on a kid to carry the ball 25 times a game.” Both primary running backs — McGriff and Brown — play both ways and benefit from the rest, he said.
On defense, the team runs a 3-3 stack, putting three linebackers directly behind the three linemen. Designed to stop spread offenses, it emphasizes speed and aggressiveness. “We always preach playing fast and physical,” Kline said.
To win, Kline said, the team has a plan on both sides of the ball. “We have to keep out offense moving, keep control of the ball. Defensively we have to get a pass rush.” He noted that Amir Williams in RFA’s backfield “is a good athlete, pretty impressive,” and someone who the defense has to stop.
First home game for Bulldogs
Westmoreland kicks off its home schedule against Phoenix, a team which is playing out of Section III’s new Developmental Division and is ineligible for postseason play.
The Firebirds snapped an 18-game losing streak last Saturday with a 32-28 win over Oswego, another team playing in the four-team Developmental Division which was approved by Section III for a one-year trial run. Mason Bell scored three touchdowns for 1-1 Phoenix.
Westmoreland, out of the Class D West, is coming off a 31-6 loss to Sauquoit Valley last Friday that saw the Bulldogs’ record fall to 0-2.
Mike Alloggio ran 18 times for 85 yards in the loss and David Piersall completed 6-of-14 passes for 81 yards with a 32-yard scoring pass to Sean Klopfanstein. Through two games, Klopfanstein is the team’s leading tackler with 22 stops from his defensive back spot.
Clinton 8-man squad this week
For one game, Clinton becomes an eight-man football squad when it plays its homecoming contest against Oxford Academy, out of Section IV.
Clinton was originally scheduled to host Sherburne-Earlville on Saturday, but that game was canceled when Sherburne opted to join Section III’s eight-man league.
Clinton is coming off a 53-13 loss to Canastota in a Class C South/East matchup last Friday night that dropped the Warriors’ record to 0-2. Clinton actually took a 7-6 lead early in the game after Aiden Walters caught s 28-yard touchdown pass from Tanner Deveans, but the Raiders stormed back to score six unanswered touchdowns. Deveans passed 15 yards to Josh Wilcox for the Warriors’ other touchdown.
(Follow Steve Jones on Twitter @RDS_SteveJones during the RFA game as he tweets updates including scoring plays.)