Thursday August 30, 2012 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
The 2012 Lake Shore High School varsity football team includes, from left, first row: Cody Smith, Andrea Akbar, Nick Winters, Nick Evans, Dalton Moore, Bruce Friedenberg, Alex Haley and Evan Fuller. Second row: Nick Miranda, Steve Fessel, Mitch Bruckman, Parker Addison, Trey Franey, Gage Hontz, Jovanni Klimowicz, Kenny LaBarge, Ryan Mancini, Briar Dils, Austin Haas, Josh Alberts and Brandon Hurd. Third row: Head Coach Chuck Kowalski, Coach Shawn Kunkel, Matt Sowa, Mitch Heppel, Josh Mullet, Luke Catalano, Tommy Scanlan, Andrew Mulvihill, Steve Hoerner, Hunter Whitney, Oshae Rodgers, Cody Green and Coach Drew Takacs.
Many of the key starters from Lake Shore’s offensive backfield last season are gone, but head coach Chuck Kowalski has got a more vast array of potential replacements to choose from in 2012.
Last season, the Eagles started the year with 24 players and ended it with less than 20, so Kowalski already feels at an advantage having 34 to start this fall. Lake Shore returns to the field following a 2-7 year and missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
Although he’s got to replace among three running backs, a three-time all-league selection in Patrick Gilman, in addition to starting quarterback Tyler Macio, Kowalski believes the depth created by more players should make for an easier transition. He’s also got a more speedy roster from which to choose his next impact players.
“Not only can we run a regular game scrimmage in practice but it also raises the level of competition (to have increased depth and numbers),” said the third-year head coach and former standout quarterback for Lackawanna High School.
“This year, we’ve got a whole bunch of running backs and wide receivers, where as last year, there was no backups at some positions,” he added. “If a guy got hurt, we were in trouble. The more competition in practice changes their whole mind set and approach.”
After playing some running back and wide receiver last year, a speedy and athletic Nick Evans will take over the quarterback duties for the departed Mascio, who’s transferred to Canisius High School as a junior.
Evans, who’s also a returning starter at linebacker, has not only exhibited a difference in his speed and strength from last season but also in his leadership.
Kowalski said Evans is learning to take command of the offense while adjusting to the timing of making handoffs and putting his passes on target.
“It’s not easy. We did a passing league in the winter and Nick wasn’t the quarterback for that, so we had to change some sets and plays since then,” Kowalski said. “It took a few days to get on the same page.”
Evans will lead a contingent of players who make up what Kowalski said is his fastest team yet at Lake Shore.
Nick Winters, who played mostly at receiver and returned kicks and punts last season, will become a mainstay in the backfield. Kowalski said Winters always had the ability to do so but now his football skills and knowledge are coming together, as well.
Senior Nick Winters will play a big role in the Lake Shore offense when the Eagles get the season started Friday (Aug. 31) hosting Wlliamsville East.
Leading the offensive line is retuning starter Bruce Friedenberg, a 6-foot-2, 242-pounder who has shown a vast knowledge of an offensive lineman’s technique and the game of football. “It’s nice to have a player whose knowledge of the line is unbelievable,” Kowalski noted.
Joining him as one of the team’s top offensive lineman will be Andrew Mulvihill after the senior missed last season due to injury. Returning to the program is Evan Fuller, who Kowalski has high hopes for as a tailback and defensive back.
Evans, Winters and Friedenberg will be joined by wide receiver and linebacker Alex Haley and fullback and defensive lineman Dalton Moore as 2012 captains.
Kowalski has noticed how close of a group the core of last year’s junior varsity team has shown to be so far at the next level. Among them, Nick Miranda, Steve Fessel and Jovanni Klimowicz should aid a maturing defense as either safeties or linebackers.
“It’s a nice core of JV players that has moved up together,” Kowalski said. “It’s neat to see them work at some of the same positions together to get better.”
There has been a closeness to this team that has spread beyond just the newcomers, according to Kowalski. He sees this group having a desire to work hard together to improve.
“These guys all really love football and want to be here,” Kowalski said. “They came to the passing league in the offseason and took part in all of the summer activities. They hit the weight room, too. They have the right attitude.”
At the same time, Kowalski realizes that his teams’ counterparts in Class A South were working just as hard in preparation for the 2012 season. He saw many of them at the passing league and knows they’re all well coached and stacked with talent that spent much of the offseason also working hard in the weight room.
Lake Shore may be a deeper team but Kowalski knows it will take a major effort on the part of his players to be a better team. He points to losing two games by one point and another by just seven as something his team will need to turn in its favor to have success this year.
“Class A looks so similar to how it looked last year. It’s going to be very competitive,” Kowalski admitted. “In the last two years, we’ve lost five or six games by one score or less. It comes down to putting people in the right position to win those close games. There are so many smaller variables that we need to get better at this year.”
The Eagles will attempt to do so playing in a Class A South game right off the bat, hosting Williamsville East on Friday, Aug. 31.Lake Shore at a Glance
Chuck Kowalski (3rd season)
Overall: 2-7, Class A South: 1-5, finished seventh of eight teams in division; Postseason (missed playoffs) lost to Williamsville East 21-20 in Class A Bowl Consolation; defeated Kenmore East 20-0 in consolation game.
League All-Stars Lost
Rory Jimerson (TE/DL), Pat Gilman (TB/LB), Jon Beniot (LB/OL), Aaron Ackley (OL/DL), Joe Catalano (FB/LB), Tyler Mascio (QB/LB).
The increase in numbers and being more athletic this season will be a big help but will it be enough for a Lake Shore team trying to replace a plethora of last year’s starters.
Sept. 2 vs Lackawanna L 20-13
Sept. 9 at Amherst L 41-6
Sept. 16 vs Will. South L 41-14
Sept. 23 vs Hamburg L 21-8
Sept. 30 at South Park W 29-16
Oct. 7 at Bennett L 13-12
Oct. 14 vs Iroquois L 30-6
Oct. 22 at Will East L 21-0
Oct. 26 vs Kenmore East W 20-0
Fri., Aug. 31 vs Will East 6:30 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 7 at Lackawanna 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 14 vs Hamburg 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 21 at Iroquois 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 28 vs South Park 6:30 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 5 vs W. Seneca East 6:30 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 12 at Will. South 7 p.m.