CARTHAGE — Last season produced so many magic moments for the Carthage Comets it would be hard to remember them all.
There were so many big plays on both sides of the line during the Comets’ run to the Section 3 Class A crown. And that was capped off by the miracle length-of-the field drive against Indian River in the final seconds in the Carrier Dome that brought the championship back to Carthage.
Coach Sam Millich, now in his 30th year with the program (15 as head coach), doesn’t want his players to ever forget those moments. “But we’ve talked very little about last year,” Millich said. “We want to focus on right now, and what we have to do to sustain that high level of play.”
For starters, Millich can call on 21 veterans from the sectional champs, as well as numerous newcomers from a junior varsity team that has not lost in two seasons. The Comets are loaded with speed and athleticism, and have numbers (51 on varsity, more than 100 combined on varsity and JV) that any coach would die for. And, most importantly, they feature a bit of swagger after breaking a seven-year Section 3 winning drought.
“The bar has been raised, no doubt,” Millich said. “The kids believe that we can be good again. This is a hard-working group. Our depth will really help, and keep us fresh. Now, we just got to take it to the field.”
The triggerman of the Comets’ potent offense last year, quarterback Bailey Wilkinson, is now at Le Moyne College playing lacrosse. Also missing are three standout offensive linemen, led by All-North tackle Trevor Gibbons. Still, Millich sees tremendous potential in this year’s offensive group.
“We’ve still got playmakers and athletes,” he said. “Now we’ve just got to find that consistency.”
It starts at quarterback, where transfer Josh Piatt, who played here two years ago, and last year’s JV starter, Mike Nevills, are battling it out. Millich said both have the tools to be successful. “They just need game experience and have to adjust to game speed,” he said.
Millich is really excited to see the Capers brothers, senior Josh and sophomore Isaiah, in the same backfield. Last year’s leading receiver, Josh Yelvington, is also back, and Millich has a new weapon in 6-foot-6 receiver Jake Redmore, who is back playing football after a year away.
Incumbents Aaron Reynolds, a three-year starter, and Matt Bondellio will anchor the offensive line.
With the four leading tacklers back, including the top dog, undersized All-North linebacker Brenden Endrina, the Comets’ defense is ahead of the offense at this point.
2013 record: 8-2, 4-1 Class A National, Class A champion.
Coach: Sam Millich (15th year, 73-51).
Players to watch: Brenden Endrina (Sr., LB, 110 tackles); Josh Capers (Sr., RB/LB, 953 rush yds., 13 TD); Josh Yelvington (Sr., SB/DB, 17 catches, 408 yds.); Aaron Reynolds (Sr., OL/DL); Kahlil Payne (Sr., FB/LB); Kade Andrews (Sr., OL/DE, 68 tackles)); Malik Little (Sr., DB); Matt Bondellio (Sr., OL/DL); Hunter Myer (Sr., OL/DL); Mike Nevills (Jr., QB); Josh Piatt (Sr., QB); Isaiah Capers (Jr., RB/LB); Matt Rapp (Sr., TE/LB).