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Experienced Eden contends with tougher schedule

GETTING FREE — Garrett DiStefano is one of six backs that should help Eden be a formidable team in 2013. Photo by Ron Larson.
Despite bringing back most of the starters from a division-title winning team, odds are Eden’s record won’t be much better than the 6-3 mark it put up last season.

It doesn’t mean the Raiders won’t be a significantly better team; it may simply be the result of the schedule they are set to play this season.

Not only does Eden have to go up against many of the usual suspects from what was mostly a southern tier league like Springville, Pioneer, Dunkirk and Olean, but now Class B powers Alden and Depew have joined the fray of the South Division.

Class B has dropped a few teams, so it’s gone from three divisions to two this season, meaning the elimination of the former Central which used to house state semifinalist and three-time defending Section VI champion Alden and a Depew team forecasted by some to be this year’s top small school.

“We really bring back almost our entire team from a division championship team last year,” head coach Chuck Tilley said. “So, we’re really going to be even better than last year but our record may not indicate it because our schedule is that much more difficult. We open the season with the two teams [Springville then Alden} that went to the stadium.”

Tilley has taken all four of his prior teams to the playoffs, the first as a Class C finalist at the The Ralph and the past three seasons as one of the smallest teams in Class B. This year, it will continue to be a challenge to accomplish that feat.

However, the experience and leadership of Eden have it confident in what it’s doing. There’s also a few more players than last year on what still amounts to be a small roster. Eden will start the year with 24, three more than last year.

“It’s still not really good but at least we can have a full practice with these guys,” said Tilley. “We still have to be careful about how much contact we have in practice. The kids have been working very hard and are focused on what they’re doing, but what we lack is depth.”

In fact, this team reminds Tilley of the first he had at Eden in 2009, which went unbeaten all the way until the Class C final. He said it may not be as athletic as that team, which featured an almost impenetrable defense, but it’s just as tough and physical.

“We really don’t have any tremendous weaknesses anywhere, with the exception of overall team depth,” Tilley noted. “That could come back to hurt us at the end of the season. It’s football and kids do get hurt.”

There is, however, a wealth of talent at running back and in the guys paving the way. Highlighting a cast of six runners that will fill three spots in the backfield is senior Alex Smythe. The third-year starter returns after running for a team-high 649 yards in just six games during a First Team All-Class B South season.

Adding to that depth are Joe Tripi, who can run and catch the ball out of the backfield, and Garrett DiStefano, who’s a bruising runner up around 200 pounds. Tripi ran for an additional 436 yards last year and DiStefano, 312. Also, junior Anthony Cummings will move from his starting spot at center to fullback, along with playing middle linebacker.

Senior Nick Sarratori will be back under center after splitting time last year with Matt Bialy at quarterback and should continue to be a major threat on the ground in the double-wing, double tight and shotgun formations. Sarratori ran for 232 yards last year and as a defensive back, is the team’s top tackler back with 40

On the offensive line, Tilley said Devin Shaw, a first team all-division selection, comes back in even better shape than last year, while James Rubek will also return to his starting spot after an all-division second team season. They’ll be joined by Eamon Crowley, who’s up from the junior varsity as a big, strong and physical player who can also run, according to Tilley.

Both juniors, Ryan Shaw will be at center and Clayton Armbruster should take over at one of the guard spots. Jake Ehrig, who played with the varsity as a sophomore last season, will start at tight end and defensive end. Senior Kyle Gibbon will take care of much of the punting and kicking duties. Eden lost to graduation its top pass catcher and tackler in Jon Lyndsley.

While many of those lineman will turn around and play on the defensive front seven, in the secondary will be Tripi and probably junior Matt Lee at corner with Sarratori and Smythe at safety in an athletic but short defensive backfield. Senior Connor Gallivan, a second team all-division selection last year, also returns to play in Tilley’s five-linebacker scheme. Gallivan had 38 tackles in 2012. Senior defensive lineman Kyle Wagner also returns after leading the team last year with four sacks.

“We’ll be short height-wise in the secondary, which will create match-up problems against teams with big receivers like Olean with its 6-foot-5 wideout,” Tilley said. “That’s why pressure is going to be so important for our defense and why we bring so many people all the time. We can’t really double a receiver too much because in high school football it’s primarily about running the ball and you’re taking a guy out of the run game.”

Tilley expects another very tough and close division, from top to bottom, like it was last year. Eden won four division games by an average of seven points and three were in come-from-behind fashion. Another one of the team’s six wins was by just one point.

“Last year’s team was a 6-1 [in the regular season], but we were a handful of plays away from being 1-6,” Tilley said. “We won a bunch of close games. I see the same thing happening this year — we’re going to have to fight and claw for everything we get, and we’re going to have to be lucky and stay healthy. If this was a Class C team, I think we’d be going to the stadium and beyond....I really think any team can win this division — that’s how tight it is.”

Eden At A Glance

Head Coach

Chuck Tilley (5th season)

2012 Overview

Overall: 6-3, Class B South: 4-1, finished first of six teams in division; Postseason (third seed in playoffs): lost to 6-Springville 42-6 in Class B quarterfinals.

League All-Stars Lost

Connor Nowak (DL), Jon Lyndsley (TE, LB), Brady Bermingham (RB/DB), Kevin Delia (DB), Matt Bialy (QB/DB).

The Skinny

This should be the best team Eden has fielded since advancing to The Ralph in 2009, but Class B South will be so tough this season, just getting to the playoffs will be a challenge in itself.

2012 Results

Sept. 1 vs East Aurora W 28-26

Sept. 7 at Springville W 19-13

Sept. 14 at Gowanda W 48-0

Sept. 21 at Dunkirk W 35-21

Sept. 29 vs Olean L 28-14

Oct. 5 at Pioneer W 22-20

Oct. 13 vs Southwestern W 8-7

Oct. 20 vs Springville L 12-6

Oct. 25 vs Lew-Port L 34-15

2013 Schedule

Sat., Sept. 7 vs Springville 2 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 14 vs Alden 2 p.m.

Fri., Sept. 20 at East Aurora 7:30 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 28 vs Cardinal O’Hara 2 p.m.

Sat., Oct. 5 at Olean 6:30 p.m.

Fri., Oct. 11 at Depew 7:30 p.m.

Sat., Oct. 19 vs Pioneer 2 p.m.


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