The Reds are replacing two all-league linemen
With his kids circling through the coach's room during the mid-day break, one in a football uniform, pads and helmet, another attending to an ankle sprain and adjusting her bike-riding helmet, Newark head football coach Mike McGavisk was the picture of calm and focus.
"Our key to success is our line up front," he said, "how quickly the offensive and defensive lines can gel. It all starts up front. That's where games are won and lost. Our goal is to get the team together and get those positions gelled."
Last season, the Newark Reds worked a 6-3 season, falling in the semifinals to the eventual Section 5 champs from East Rochester/Gananda, 27-0.
The Reds lost some key players to graduation — All-Finger Lakes East League offensive tackle Matt Blair and All-League defensive tackle Cody Cornelius. "(They) were our two best linemen," said McGavisk. "They were our captains and team leaders, and very good players up front." Blair is playing football at St. John Fisher this fall; Cornelius plans to play lacrosse for Alfred University in the spring.
Also gone are defensive back Travon Wilson, another All-League player, who was also an outside linebacker and wide receiver, tailback Nelson Betances (honorable mention All-League), and defensive end Dan Baylard-Moreira.
McGavisk said the targets for this season haven't changed — East Rochester/Gananda is still a powerhouse and the team to beat, with Geneva right there, too. "Geneva lost their quarterback but they are still strong," he said.
"We have a lot of returning players," the coach said, with an offense that could be the envy of the league. Senior quarterback Phil Tack has a great arm and can run the ball, too. On defense, he plays free safety. His favorite receiver and a league standout is senior wide receiver Micah Wright, who does double-duty as a cornerback on defense.
"Phil is an outstanding athlete," McGavisk said. "He can run and pass and he's very smart on the field. He makes good decisions, and he's a competitor — he doesn't like coming off the field in second place — he's one of those guys. Micah is very good and he's been part of the varsity for a long time."
Senior wide receiver Alec Otero can keep the chains moving on possession plays, and senior running back Nick Ross adds some flash on offense, and is a defensive back on defense.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior linebackers Sidney Conner and Collin Shelanskey will be positioned behind senior lineman Justin Mitchinson and in front of senior defensive back Jaymee Rosser.
Newark starts its season at home against Penn Yan; the meeting with East Rochester/Gananda is set for Homecoming and Senior Night on Oct. 4. Two weeks later, the Reds finish the regular season at Geneva.
"Our goal is to be as good as we can possibly be," said McGavisk, who enters his 20th year as a football coach in Newark, his 19th as head coach. "We want to be in that upper level of teams in our league. We're working hard to be able to compete with teams that beat us handily last year."