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Open Mike Column: Frontier looks to next step in removing past doubts

CLOSING IN ON SOMETHING BIG — Justin DeLaRosa (middle) and Kevin Hamilton, both returning players, close in on a big hit. Photo by Ron Larson.
Ask Cameron Coon, and probably most of his teammates returning from the 2012 squad, the score of last year’s semifinal loss to Jamestown and the senior can rattle it off pretty quickly. Jamestown 42, Frontier 14.

Pictures of the scoreboard at Strider Field with that score have been hanging up in the weight room at Frontier since the day after the Class AA semifinal game.

As if a team already geared toward maybe the biggest season in Frontier football since winning the program’s last title in 1984 needed any more motivation, now the Falcons have it.

“The expectations for this year have been the highest they’ve been in a long time,” said Coon, a tailback and defensive back, who’s been playing with the varsity since his sophomore year. “Even since modified, we’ve known that this team is a team that could get us back to The Ralph.

“That Jamestown game is definitely one of our motivations,” he added. “That’s the farthest we’ve gone in 20-something years so there’s definitely some motivation to get back and take that next step to the championship game.”

Regardless of that score, Frontier enjoyed a season to remember in 2012. The Falcons broke a postseason winless streak almost three decades long by beating Niagara Falls in the Section VI quarterfinals.

The Falcons took a major step in the right direction for a program that’s been building up for the past decade in trying to compete with the best large schools in Western New York, most notably state power Orchard Park.

In many ways, last season was just the start of what seems to be ahead in 2013. The program has been looking to this season for quite some time. This group of seniors and juniors have enjoyed much success at the modified, youth, freshmen and junior varsity levels and it’s now their time to make their mark as a varsity unit.

“These guys had a great couple of years at the JV and other levels and now they’re all up at varsity, so our staff they all have preseason goals and high expectations,” Frontier head coach Tim Myslinski said. “This is a close bunch; they’ve played together for a long time and there’s a great core of kids here. Each and every kid on the team is doing something for the betterment of the team.”

While players like Coon, fellow running back Kenny Kahler and receiver and special team’s ace Adrian Cannon played up on varsity as sophomores and took their lumps during a tough first season, Frontier’s junior varsity and freshman teams both went unbeaten in 2011. Others moved up to the varsity and junior varsity levels last season until being united for the 2013 season.

“It’s going to be exciting. The defense is looking good, the offense has been crisp and a lot of players are returning to the line,” Kahler said. “I think we are a little more confident from last year. A lot of guys were in the weight room getting ready for the regular season.”

Actually, the weight room is where already strong bonds were further solidified.

“You saw that in the weight room — our loss to Jamestown is plastered all over the weight room and every time a kid did a rep and thought he was too tired or he wanted to go hang out with his girlfriend, they looked at that score and said, ‘You know what, not this year.’” Myslinski said.

The mindset has truly changed at a school that had so much difficulty competing in football for so many years. The “Frontier Doubt” that Myslinski said used to be so prevalent in the program, now seems a mere memory.

“A lot of the guys got playing time last year on a young team and this year, we’re coming back with a lot of experience,” Coon said.

“Everyone was lifting and it was definitely a step up from year’s past in the intensity of the workouts,” he added. “It’s really how we get a lot of our camaraderie.”

Last season seemed to turn around with a come-from-behind win over Clarence in Week Three. Ironically, Frontier starts its highly-anticipated season against that same team with an opportunity to establish itself as a power right off the bat.

“Last year’s game with Clarence was incredible,” Coon said. “That was really the first time we saw that we could come back and be a good team. They have a lot of skilled players and it should be a great game.”

And although Jamestown isn’t on their regular season schedule, the Falcons are still hoping for the opportunity to change some of those headlines from last season.

“I think it’s a motivation from last year — that wasn’t a good game for us,” Kahler said. “We’re looking to see them again, in the playoffs, hopefully.”


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