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Hamburg Bulldogs may pair size with breakout skill

The 2012 Hamburg High School varsity football team includes, from left, first row: Mark Myles, Brett Schuman, Liam Wood, Evan Smith, Ryan Herr, Joe Wittmeyer, Evan Earle, Vinny Sardo, Kevin Hurley, Austin Bishop and Nick Larson. Second row: Coach Dan Rathke, Alex Ciccone, Zeb Hoffman, Craig Mikida, Colin Daly, Josh Bennett, Connor Mammoser, Lukas Kramer, Chris Tuttle, Devyn Helak, Zach Damon, Kyle Violanti, Chris Jablonski, Chase Harmon, Matt Reilly and Coach Ian Margerum. Third row: Head Coach Mike McFadden, Coach Kevin Pagliei, Coach Jeff Tripp, Griffin Ryan, Jeremy Bitten, J. Fisk, Zach Kuppel, Robbie Miller, Kyle Brown, Jeremiah Bill, Bryce Hite, Weas Riley, Joe DeGrood, Sean Simano, Coach Pat Cauley, Coach Mark Fregelette and Coach Tom Butera. Missing from photo: Colton Preischel and team manager Colby Cimano.

Hamburg’s offensive line is stacked with talent ready to create holes for the skilled position players. However, with many of those players that filled those positions last season having graduated, the question for the Bulldogs is can they find anyone to bust through those seams.

Head coach Mike McFadden believes he will have several players who fit the bill, even though most of them will be new to starting roles.

“Some of our holes got filled with a good base of skilled players,” said McFadden, approaching his sixth season as head coach and 22nd with the program. “We’ve got people in these positions that can make some plays. When you have that, you have a chance to win games. I think we have four or so guys that can take it all the way when we get it in their hands.”

His biggest weapon could be at the quarterback position. Though inexperienced as a starter, senior Lukas Kramer brings size, running ability and arm strength to the position. McFadden said the senior is cut in the mold of past successful Hamburg quarterbacks Steve Stamer and Matt Thomas, but may be even a little meaner.

Kramer would have received some playing time last year if not suffering a broken collarbone which sidelined him for six weeks. He’ll also start for Hamburg as a strong safety. Strong-armed junior Colin Daly will back him up at quarterback.

“The quarterback competition never happened last year because of Luke’s injury,” McFadden noted. “This year, he has shown the ability to run the ball, too. He’s fast and smart as a quarterback. The kid is athletic and wants to run you over.”

McFadden also expects a breakout season from returning starter at wide receiver, Kyle Violanti. Like many of his players, Violanti has some size, at a lanky 5-foot-11 with long arms. The senior also has speed and a knack for the ball. McFadden is bringing him along slowly in the preseason as Violanti recovers from hernia surgery. Violanti will also be counted on as the team’s top cornerback.

Hamburg’s breakaway speed out of the backfield should come from sophomore Mark Myles, the brother of former standout Dorian Myles. McFadden said Mark is fast like his older brother and runs with even more power. Also seeing time at tailback will be speedy seniors Nick Larson and Austin Bishop, a lacrosse standout who returns to the football program.

“When Mark gets the ball, he’s hard to take down,” McFadden said. “He’s got a lot of top-end speed. He also sees the field well and reads his blocks.”

Evan Smith, a three-year varsity player, will share fullback responsibilities with fellow seniors Josh Bennett and Brett Schuman. Smith and Schuman will also see time on defense as linebackers and Bennett as a defensive end.
Josh Bennett and Hamburg get the 2012 season underway Friday (Aug. 31) at South Park.

Senior Craig Mikida has also emerged for Hamburg as a bonafide threat as a wide receiver, along with becoming a starter as a defensive back. McFadden said Mikida may have made the biggest jump he’s ever seen from one year to another in attitude and psyche.

Senior Jeremy Bitten will see time at tight end, but should be pushed by juniors Griffin Ryan and Robbie Miller. Ryan will also play as a hybrid linebacker/end on defense.

While optimistic about his weapons, McFadden feels even more sure about the type of talent on his offensive and defensive lines.

Leading a sizeable group is senior Wes Riley, who McFadden believes is an All-Western New York candidate on both sides of the ball. He’ll start at right guard and play on the interior of the defensive line after having his season ended last year with an injury in Week 3.

“He’s the real deal,” McFadden said. “He plays with an edge.”

Junior third-year starter Jeremiah Bill, who may be the biggest of the three at around 6-foot-5, will return to play left tackle on offense. He continues to improve every year, according to McFadden. In the other tackle spot will be Kyle Brown, a 6-foot-4, 285 pound senior, who’s also a standout thrower for the track and field team.

Joining the three on the offensive line are senior leader Devyn Helak at left guard and sophomore newcomer Joe Degrood, who will start at center. Helak will join the “Big 3” to also make up an experienced defensive line. Sean Simano should add strength to the defensive line as a starting end.

“They’re going to have to be the strength of the defense,” said Hamburg defensive coordinator Pat Cauley of the line. “We’re big and experienced there. They’ve got to stop the run. When you can make a team one dimensional that’s when you have success. You can’t let their offense dictate play to you.”

McFadden expects Class A South to be loaded with quarterbacks, so he thinks controlling the football and staying away from turnovers will make a big difference in some close games.

“I think this one of the better teams we’ve had, but right now that’s only on paper,” said McFadden, whose teams have won only four games in the past two years, including going 3-6 last season, after making the playoffs in 2009. “These Class A teams are going to be very competitive. We need to be ready.”

Hamburg starts the season Friday, Aug. 31 at South Park in a Class A South contest.

Hamburg at a Glance

Head Coach

Mike McFadden (6th season)

2011 Overview

Overall:3-6, Class A South: 2-4, finished fifth of eight teams in division. Postseason (missed the playoffs): defeated Williamsville North 24-14 in Class A Bowl Consolation; lost to Grand Island 28-0 in Bowl final.

League All-Stars Lost

Jake Fiore (TB), John Stefaniak (OL/DL), Sam Buffa (QB), Aaron Derby (FB/LB), Tom Lipomi (WR/DB), Nick Buczkowski (TE, DE).

The Skinny

This could be the most talented and complete team since the Class A semifinalist of 2009, but it will need to overcome some inexperience at the skill positions.

2011 Results

Sept. 2 at W. Seneca East L 32-12

Sept. 9 vs South Park W 19-18

Sept. 16 vs Bennett L 35-7

Sept. 23 at Lake Shore W 21-8

Sept. 30 at Amherst L 21-20 (OT)

Oct. 7 vs Iroquois L 32-23

Oct. 14 at Frontier L 21-0

Oct. 22 at Will. North W 24-14

Oct. 27 vs Grand Island L 28-0

2012 Schedule

Fri., Aug. 31 at South Park 4 p.m.

Fri., Sept. 7 vs Will. South 7 p.m.

Fri., Sept. 14 vs Lake Shore 7 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 22 at Bennett 2 p.m.

Fri., Sept. 28 vs W. Seneca East 7 p.m.

Fri., Oct. 5 at Iroquois 7 p.m.

Fri., Oct. 12 vs Frontier 7 p.m.


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