Cazenovia Perhaps more than any other high school football program in Central New York, the Cazenovia Lakers have weathered the sport’s changes, its constant arrivals and departures, and have remained a powerful force.
And in 2014, the Lakers’ resilience will get tested once more.
Many key players from the team that flattened 10 straight foes last fall en route to another Section III Class B title, only to drop a heartbreaking 35-34 decision to eventual state champion Maine-Endwell in the regional playoffs, have graduated.
Head coach Tom Neidl said getting over that loss took a while, not so much for himself (he became a grandfather for the first time the very next week), but for his players.
“That (the loss to Maine-Endwell) was a heartbreaker,” said Neidl. “The hardest part was trying to explain that to the kids after they competed so well against the best in the state.”
The 17 departed seniors include running back Andrew Vogl, linemen Cody Westfall and Brad Lucas, defensive captain Mike Nourse and other standouts like Noah King and Ryman Seeley.
And it included Kevin Hopsicker, the do-everything senior quarterback. Neidl said that, beyond the statistics, what he misses most about Hopsicker is his football smarts, his ability to detect what an opposing defense is doing and react to it well.
Studying all that as Hopsicker’s backup, Keaton Ackermann waited his turn, and now will likely get the nod at quarterback this fall, though Jake Schaffner has pushed for playing time under center, too. Whoever isn’t at quarterback will play at split end, with Ackermann handling all of the team’s kicking duties, too.
While the offense is the same – a hybrid of a two-back set and spread unique to the Lakers, even if Ackermann might be more prone to throwing the ball than Hopsicker was. Schaffner will go to wide receiver, where Alex Devine has the most experience.