The Malone football team enters the 2013 fall season as the defending Section 10 and Class B champion. But it will be difficult for the Huskies to repeat as the team was hit extremely hard by graduation.
Malone lost its starting quarterback, all of its starting receivers, and some running backs and offensive linemen. All of the graduation losses greatly affected the defensive side of the ball, as well, including three-quarters of the linebacking unit and most of the starting defensive backfield.
But dont utter the words rebuilding year to the members this team. The coaching staff of Greg Marshall, Cory West and Brian Doe dont believe that rebuilding fits the current edition.
These guys just dont want to hear that term. They dont believe that this team is rebuilding, just moving forward, said Malone coach Greg Marshall.
This team is young and extremely talented, he added. But we need to have some athletes step up and be leaders. We have some strong candidates who have already stepped to the front, shown the ability to lead the team in practice. These are the same ones that stepped up workouts on their own over the summer and got some of the other players involved in running and in the weight room.
Pertinent to Marshalls statement was the fact that as practice concluded, the team, as a whole, started running up and down the hills at the west end of Crowner Field on the Malone campus.
Thats what I mean, added Marshall, pointing to his charges working out on their own. The team is working really hard.
Getting in football shape is only part of the problem for the Huskies. The biggest concern for Malone will be at the quarterback position, replacing Northern Athletic Conference standout Mitchell Gallagher, who graduated and is now playing football for St. Lawrence University. The departed QB/LB is a two-time Section10 MVP and the latest recipient of the Don Petty Award, which is voted on by league officials and given to the sections top football player.
The Huskies have a pair of players looking to step in to fill the huge void left by Gallaghers graduation: senior Jake Henning and sophomore Camron Gallagher, Mitchells younger brother.
Both are working very hard to earn the starting spot, Marshall said. Henning is showing his senior leadership with the younger Gallagher and it seems to be helping out both players. There is a competition between the two of them, and its a good competition. Both players are feeding off one another, learning from each other. They both make mistakes, then get together and discuss what the solution will be.
After the quarterback position, Malone must replace its receivers. Also gone from the 2012 team are speedy wideouts Harvey Smith (University of Notre Dame), John Picaro (SUNY Plattsburgh), JP King (U.S. Navy), and Nate Monette (SUNY Canton).
And if thats not enough, most of the offensive and defensive line players have graduated which include NAC standout Kelsey Head, Danny Sanchez, Cody Prue, Matt Ellison and Duncan Marshall.
The Huskies, despite those losses, do have a solid core of returning players to both the line and to the backfield.
Big men Tehatakenta Boots, Tanner Godin and Joe Gokey return from the championship season a year ago, while hard-hitting Tucker Bartenslager and Evan Mannix also look to make an impact on both sides of the ball.
Bartenslager is fighting for a starting spot in the offensive backfield along with rough-and-tough runners Jake Perry and Cody Smith, as well as the quick-footed Devin Noreault. Also in the backfield mix is sophomore Zach Raymond, another speedster who packs a punch arriving from a successful junior varsity team.
Bartenslager, Perry, Noreault, and Smith are projected into a linebacker position while sophomore Josh Dora will join the battle on the line with Boots, Godin and Gokey. Also looking for a starting spot up front will be Mannix, Andrew Laplante and Jacob Scharf, who has sprouted up since hockey season and spent a good portion of time in the weight room during the offseason.
In the defensive backfield, Henning, Jarret Lamica and Camron Gallagher are vying for a safety position, while the Huskies have size and speed at the corners with Raymond, Jordan Yando, Abe Gravell, Ryan Hooper, Eric Stacy, Erik Grytebust, and Dakota Connell all looking to break into the starting lineup.
We are young, and we will make mistakes. But its learning from them and moving forward that will be the key to this teams success this season, Marshall said. Our line is very big and athletic and we have some good receivers and running backs.
The Huskies will open up their title defense on Friday night in Massena against the Red Raiders.