Red Raiders lost 18 to graduation, so it's time for new faces running a new offense to step forward for 2017 season
There are times graduation hits a team hard.
And then there is the 2017 Palmyra-Macedon football team.
The Red Raiders are back this fall minus the 18 seniors they lost to graduation and it’s not just volume, it’s mass. Just four players are back with any sort of starting experience at the varsity level, and that exodus hit the team in just about every aspect.
That’s why coach Brad Patchett is calling this a teaching year, but it hasn’t dampened his optimism for fielding a competitive team. It’s also a big reason behind the installation of a new offense, one that’s being installed at all levels of the program so that by the time the younger players reach the varsity level, the system is nothing new.
So let’s take a closer look at what the Red Raiders are bringing into the 2017 season.
It was a topsy-turvy season for the Red Raiders, who lost three straight in the heart of the regular season before closing with a pair of wins. They beat rival Wayne in the first round of the Section V Class B Tournament after losing the season opener to the Eagles, then ended the season with a loss to Hornell in the B semifinals for a 5-4 record.
The Red Raiders open with a tough one on the road Friday night at Penn Yan, which has workhorse running back Dylan Stape. How graduation affects each team in the Finger Lakes East remains to be seen, of course, but key games include the Sept. 23 road game at East Rochester/Gananda and the Sept. 29 home game against Geneva. Pal-Mac closes the regular season at Wayne on Oct. 13.
Junior Doyle (5-10, 165) is the new quarterback at Pal-Mac. He didn’t see a lot of time last season and he’s in charge of a new offense that’s being installed for this fall. Still, coach Brad Patchett is comfortable with Doyle at the wheel. “He’s a good leader and he’s dedicated,” said the coach.
Behind Doyle, the Red Raiders need to find the production that the graduated Brandon Hawkins brought. That won’t be easy, but senior Logan Ameele (6-3, 170), junior Alex Callaghan (5-9, 160) and freshman Josh Shafer (5-7, 225) will get the most touches at running back. It’s no secret that last year’s offense ran through Hawkins, but Patchett is eager to see how the offense unfolds because “we’ve got more options now,” he said. “With more kids touching the ball, it gives us more flexibility.”
Of course, that doesn’t got very far if the line ahead of the runners isn’t doing its job. And this is where it’s an interesting development for the Red Raiders. Senior Travis Snyder (6-3, 240) is the only returning starter and he’ll be at left guard. That leaves the rest of the blocking up to juniors Morgan Eddinger (5-7, 170), Tanner Doyle (5-11, 160), sophomore Nate Mayou (5-10, 245) and freshman Charlie Stever (5-7, 175). Eddinger made the switch to line from fullback on last year’s team, and Patchett said the attitude there has been great. The newcomers bring a variety of experience, either as varsity backups last season or from junior varsity.
Either way, there’s a lot of coaching going on for Patchett and his staff.
“It’s basics,” he said. “The offense is new to them as well, but it’s a real fun group to coach. We’ve been looking for a few years to find an offense we can hang our hat on.”
Snyder and Mayou will be the anchors among the down linemen, and junior Cam Montroy (5-10, 325) and senior Mike Eckert (5-10, 200) will be in the mix up front as well. Among the linebackers, expect to see Ameele, Eddinger, the Doyles and sophomore Zach Baker (5-8, 210).
Patchett and his staff will stick to basics on this side of the ball as well, given the lack of experience. “I could have 100 plays in the playbook, but that won’t do us any good if no one knows where to go,” he said. “We’ll go with what they know.”
So the story here is much like it is for the offense. The Red Raiders have a lot of new faces and they’re all making the adjustment to the speed and power of varsity football. How quickly this adjustment is made will go a long way toward the success of the defense.
The Red Raiders have 32 on the varsity roster but only four of those have any type of starting experience. That’s why Patchett said it’s important for the team to remain healthy. If the depth is tested too much, it could be a difficult challenge to overcome.
“That could definitely change things,” said Patchett. “So we need to be consistent … Lots of new faces and we’re doing a lot of teaching, and I like that. I’d rather teach good habits instead of break bad ones.”
Still, the Red Raiders believe they’ll be a competitive team in the Finger Lakes East if they can be consistent with the options they have on offense and the defense can make stops.
It’ll be interesting to see how the season unfolds in Class B and in particular, the Finger Lakes East. Along with Hawkins (Marines), ER/Gananda’s Cam Cleveland (St. John Fisher College) and Geneva’s Mark Suchewski (Hobart), the league is minus its top three running backs from a year ago and many believe Penn Yan’s Stape will emerge as the top threat in the East. Many are pointing to Wayne and QB Braeden Zenelovic, and lineman Spencer Quinn, as the top challenger in the East and in Class B. But Batavia, Hornell and Livonia are always in the discussion as well.