Friday September 6, 2013 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
TAKING HIM DOWN — Junior Paul Brinkel returns to Frontier after being one of the team’s top tacklers last season. Photo by Ron Larson.
These may be the highest of expectations on a Frontier football team in three decades, but Tim Myslinski keeps preaching to his players the importance of worrying about one game at a time.
Frontier’s fifth-year head coach realizes making that climb to where the team would ultimately like to be at season’s end gets a lot more difficult by missing the first few steps.
The Falcons already have much to build on for the program by what was accomplished last season. Frontier made the playoffs for the second time since 1984 and won its first postseason game, 28 years after its last playoff victory.
“It was a great step forward last season,” Myslinski said. “Each year since I’ve been the head coach with my staff, we’ve approached it like, ‘Let’s just get a little further and further and further, and get this team winning and make it infectious....I’m trying to preach to these guys one snap, one play, one series, one game at a time. They need to know every game we play this year is a playoff game.”
Frontier is projected near the top of Class AA not only because it brings back so much talent on both sides of the ball, but also due to the scheduling break its perceived to have received.
With Class AA dropping to nine teams this year, the South and North Divisions have combined and the scheduling of six league games for each team was done by a random draw. The two division teams Frontier happened not to get were state finalist Orchard Park and Section VI Class AA finalist Jamestown. The Falcons split two games with Jamestown, falling at the southern tier power in the sectional semifinals.
“When the draw came and we didn’t get those two, I was actually disappointed,” Myslinski said. “We’ve been playing Orchard Park and Jamestown forever. When we beat Jamestown last year that was a huge program win for us and gave us confidence.
“If we take one game at a time and take care of what we need to, we’re going to have to play those teams anyway [in the playoffs],” he added. “They’re both every good and to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.”
The Falcons schedule still includes traditional South powers Clarence and Lancaster, along with tough former North teams Lockport and Kenmore West. Frontier approaches that schedule with much of its offensive line and skilled position players back in tact.
The Falcons return their top two backs in Kenny Kahler at fullback and Cameron Coon at tailback, along with its top receiver in the tall and strong Ricky Fitzgerald. Kahler and Coon have been with the varsity since their sophomore seasons, while Fitzgerald came back to the district last season after a year away in Florida and led the team with 357 yards on 29 catches.
Coming off running for a team-leading 552 yards, Kahler looks tough and refined — as does Coon, both of whom will also play in the defensive backfield, according to Myslinski. Junior Paul Brinkel will also see time at tailback, while Adrian Cannon, another three-year varsity player, will play key roles as a receiver, cornerback and in the kicking and punting game.
Senior Tyler Gaglia will take over at quarterback after paying his dues behind Ben Koch last season. Myslinski said Gaglia has shown poise this year, while working with assistant coach Mike Steffan, and his hockey background has helped him be able to play at a fast tempo.
With junior lacrosse standout Brandon May transferring to Timon, Frontier has had to make other plans for a backup quarterback. Myslinski and his staff are working with backup fullback and starting linebacker Kevin Hamilton, who did play under center some at the junior varsity level.
The line, which Myslinski describes as even more physical and bigger than last season, will be anchored by returning junior starter Justin DeLaRosa and joined by the likes of 6-foot-4, 285-pound junior Derek Dorr. Even with junior returning starter Zach O’Connor being out for the season, Myslinski is confident in what this group can do. Many of those lineman will also be playing on the defensive line.
“This is the biggest and the best my line has looked since I’ve been here,” Myslinski noted. “Right now, we’ve got a couple of two-way guys up there. That’s what high school football is all about.”
On the other side of the ball, AJ Licata will quarterback the defense at linebacker. Even on a team with All-Western New York honorable mention linebacker Nick King, Licata won the Defensive Most Valuable Player award for Frontier in 2012.
Licata, who was also a First Team All-Class AA selection, finished with 78 tackles, which was second to King’s 110. The next top tacklers are all returning players, as well, with Hamilton notching 63 stops, Ryan Harvey, 54, and Brinkel, 31.
“AJ is so important because of the way he sees the field,” Myslinski said. “I could go on and on. We have a lot of guys who did a lot of work in the offseason and you can see it.”
Myslinski is a believer in preseason camp fostering bonds between players and coaches and players. Already having a close team that’s grown up together through the system, Myslinski hopes the foundation’s been built so that when things get tough, they stay together.
That will certainly be tested in the opener against a tough Clarence team and with Frontier traditionally not being a quick starter out of the gate. Last year’s come-from-behind win over Clarence in Week Three helped kick start Frontier’s 2012 run.
“Every year we play Clarence, it’s a good game and physical,” Myslinski said. “It’s a huge opportunity for us to see where we are. In the past, our openers haven’t been the greatest so our focus is on that game and not anything beyond. I think they were so worried about the playoffs last year, but you’ve got to worry about the first step up that ladder.”Frontier At A GlanceHead Coach
Tim Myslinski (4th season)2012 Overview
Overall: 6-3, Class AA South: 3-2, finished third of six teams in division; Postseason (third seed from the South Division): defeated N2-Niagara Falls 21-7 in quarterfinal, defeated Hutch Tech 17-14, lost to S1-Jamestown 42-14.League All-Stars Lost
Luke Bartone (OL), Bernie Cuthbert (TE), Nick King (LB), Ben Koch (QB), John Bushen (OL/DL), Greg Schmidt (DL), Kyle Natwora (DL). The Skinny
Frontier is primed for another big season, but the biggest question remains can the Falcons get by Jamestown, which also returns most of its top players from a sectional finalist team, and Orchard Park, which has reloaded after a state finalist season.2012 Results
Aug. 31 at W. Seneca West L 28-12
Sept. 8 at Riverside W 28-16
Sept. 14 at Clarence W 27-24
Sept. 21 vs Orchard Park L 27-10
Sept. 28 vs Jamestown W 35-28
Oct. 5 vs Lancaster W 22-16
Oct. 12 at Hamburg W 49-20
Oct. 20 at Niagara Falls W 21-7
Oct. 26 at Jamestown L 42-14
Fri., Sept. 6 vs Clarence 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 13 at Niagara Falls 7 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 21 at Lockport 2 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 27 vs W.S. West 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Oct. 5 at Kenmore East 2 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 11 at Lancaster 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 18 vs Hamburg 7 p.m