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High school football: Massena prepares to kick it up a notch

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MASSENA — After getting a taste of state playoff experience last fall, Massena enters the 2014 Northern Athletic Conference season hungry for more.

“Going to states last year was a great experience for all of us. Things didn’t work out our way and we wound up losing to the eventual Class A champions,” said coach Anthony Diagostino, who returns for his seventh season at the Raider helm.

“Seeing the quality of football at the state level opened our eyes. We saw what it takes to compete at the next level and the kids know how much harder they have to work to get there,” he added.

The Raiders went 5-2 in their NAC regular season games in 2013 with a team that featured an even mix of seniors and juniors. They followed that up with a pair of encouraging playoff wins against Section 10 rivals before closing out their season in a 42-0 loss to eventual state champion Queensbury of Section 3 on the road in the first round of the state Class A playoffs.

This year’s Massena squad boasts 17 veterans, but the Raiders will look to fill the void left by the graduation of several key starters on offense, including running back JP Reagan, who finished as the top rusher in the NAC last fall, and two-year starting quarterback Rory Corcoran.

“We lost some quality players to graduation but that’s always the case in high school football. You just have to be prepared to move on,” Diagostino said.

Senior running back Isaiah Dillabough is expected to take over as the lead ball carrier, and classmate Josh Manley returns after emerging as the team’s top receiving threat last fall.

The Raiders also feature a veteran core of linemen that includes seniors Nolan Terrance, Brody LeCuyer, Sean Green, Cordell Benedict, Jacob Arquette-Laffin, Reed Chapman, Young Joe Rourke, Billy MacCuaig, Joel Hinkley and Nate Premo.

Junior newcomers Maddox Merry and Bobby Todd are competing for the job of starting quarterback.

Returning seniors Zach Plourde and Matt Thibault, first-year junior Ethan Marcello and rookie sophomore Mike Bressard are being counted on to bolter the receiving corps while junior Josh Zembeck is showing promise in his first varsity season at running back.

“One of the problems we had last year was that Josh Manley had most of our catches and team’s were able to focus on him. This year, we’re hoping to balance things out a little more with our passing game,” Diagostino said.

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