|SECTION IV FOOTBALL: TIOGA'S AIELLO HOPING TIGERS PLAY 'WITH CHIP ON SHOULDER' IN 2017 (2017-08-31)
By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
TIOGA CENTER —
After five consecutive Section IV championships and a state title in 2015,
Tioga suffered its first losing season under coach Nick Aiello, who is
hoping the Tigers will play “with a chip on their shoulder” in 2017.
(Tioga opens the 2017 campaign Friday night when it hosts defending Class C state champion Newark Valley. Game time is 7 p.m.)
seeing great things out of this group, and I know they’re hungry,” said
Aiello. “I really hope they play with a chip on their shoulder from
last year, and play with something to prove; that’s really all I want.”
Aiello notes his expectations haven’t changed.
expectations are always high. I have certain goals in mind for this
team, but I’m going to wait until after the first two weeks to see what
this team brings to the table before I really start making those goals
“I have to see what these kids are going to do,” said
Aiello. “I believe in practicing, playing, and being a champion, but you
have to do certain things and play a certain way if you want to be a
champion at the end of the year.
“This team has the tools to do
what we want to do,” he added. “I think it’s a matter of improvement. We
don’t want to be as good as the day before. We need to improve every
Looking back on 2016, Aiello notes there were a lot
of contributing factors, and says he and his staff have been working to
remedy some of the problems.
“It was a perfect storm,” said
Aiello. “I don’t want to make a lot of excuses, but it became very
difficult to handle all the adversity, and to do a good enough job
motivating and coaching the kids through all that adversity. It just
seemed like when things were piling up, we couldn’t persevere in the
right way, and for the most part that falls on the coaching staff.
you reflect on a season like that, you look at the things you could
have done better, and you try to make the improvements for the next
year; and that’s what we’ve tried to do,” he noted. “We’ve looked at
what’s worked for us in the past, what we should be focusing on, and how
can we do a better job of building team chemistry.
“A big goal
of ours was ‘how can we build leadership better in the offseason and
have that carry, especially through the preseason,’” added Aiello. “I
think we’ve taken a lot of positive steps in the right direction, but
only time will tell as the season unfolds.
Aiello notes he was impressed with this team’s senior leadership, work ethic, and toughness in the preseason.
seen great leadership out of our seniors and that’s our biggest
strength right now, and we’ll need that to carry on through the season.
the lack of experience and the lack of football knowledge for the
younger guys at this point, I’ve seen a great work ethic, combined with
focus on understanding what we’re trying to get them to do,” said
“More importantly, they understand why we’re trying to
get them to do things a certain way, and that’s really important,” he
said. “They’re not just going through the motions when we do a drill. We
can drill something and then see it come to fruition when we’re going
“The other thing I see is a certain amount of toughness —
both physical and mental — out of some kids who were really question
marks, and I think that comes from the leadership.”
Aiello’s biggest worry heading into the 2017 campaign is his team’s confidence after a losing season.
is my biggest concern,” he said. “After last year, it would be very
easy for a lot of kids to be unsure of themselves. I really believe that
once we strap the pads on and play some games — win or lose — the
confidence will start to go up because that’s the confidence you need
once you get into divisional play and the postseason.
look to the end of the season and certain goals you want to accomplish,
you can’t have any doubt in what you’re trying to do.
trying to build that confidence,” added Aiello. “Hopefully, once we get
some games under our belt the kids will start realizing how much
potential they have to do some good things at the end.”
Senior Scott Siberski will anchor Tioga’s offensive line at center this season.
into the season we felt Scott Siberski was our best offensive lineman,
so we put him at center, knowing how important that position is,” said
Siberski will be flanked at guards by senior Alex Bloss
and freshman Jacob Armstrong, and by junior Stephen Taylor at one tackle
. Junior Joe Ellis is the front-runner at the other tackle, but senior
Dylan Gowan and Kody Lantz are vying for that spot.
Juniors Matt Babcock, Jack Frey, and Christian Weaver will serve as back-ups on the line.
said his line has good size, but other than Siberski and Bloss — both
returning starters, lacks experience. He hopes that problem has been
“One of the reasons we worked hard to get the JV
program back was to get the kids some experience before they get to the
varsity level,” he said. “With that being said, we have some big bodies,
but not a whole lot of experience.
“We have some juniors who are
going to turn into very good linemen, but it’s going to take some time
and games under their belts,” noted Aiello. I think our tackles have a
ton of potential, and I think our freshman is going to be very good by
the end of the year.
“I’m very excited and optimistic about this
line because there’s so much room for growth,” said Knolles. “Every
single lineman has done what it takes to get better, every single day in
practice so far. As the season goes on, I think that line is going to
gel, and, hopefully, by midseason they’re doing some great things.”
Aiello believes his team’s strength will be at the skill positions.
core of our experience are in the skill position. With a young line,
we’re definitely going to lean on them. We’ve already told them they’re
going to have to make things happen.”
Three-year starter senior
Connor Hutchison returns at quarterback for the Tigers with senior Max
Johnson at fullback, and seniors Trey Floyd and Justin Rockwell at the
halfback spots. Junior Owen Wanck will see time at fullback, while
senior Nick Klossner and junior John Worthing are in the mix at
Klossner, and senior DeMario Cambers will see the
majority of time at wide receiver with Floyd and Rockwell also seeing
Juniors Zac Warner and Austin Lamb, Cambers, and
possibly Floyd will all see time at tight end. Junior Jerry Bleiler, “a
very good blocker,” could also work his way into the mix.
“We have three or four tight ends we feel comfortable using,” Aiello said.
Aiello hopes the weapons at his disposal will create a “balanced” offense.
look to utilize all the tools we have, and all the skill sets we have,”
he said. “From a coaching standpoint, as the season progresses I think
we’ll see what each kid can do, and different ways we can get each kid
the ball; that’s where our balance will come from — from spreading the
ball around. And, as the season progresses I think we can get little
more creative in how we spread the ball around.
about run-pass balance, but at the high school level, especially the
(Class) D level, I think you can create balance by spreading the ball
around whether it’s in the air or on the ground,” added Aiello.
Aiello notes a lot of the same faces will be on defense, especially up front.
“You’ll see a lot of two-way linemen,’ he said.
Again, Siberski will be the anchor of the defensive line.
will anchor the defensive line,” said Aiello. “I think that’s where
he’s strongest, he’s just so technically sound and does a great job for
Taylor, Gowan, Lantz, Babcock, Ellis, and Bloss will all see action on the defensive line.
nice to have that many guys capable of playing there,” said Aiello. “It
gives us depth and it allows a bit of rest for some of the two-way
Floyd is returning at inside linebacker and will be
joined by Wanck. Johnson and Rockwell will start at outside linebacker
with Warner and Lamb rotating in.
Klossner, Worthing, and Cambers
will start in the secondary, with Alex Quinn subbing in at times.
Rockwell and Johnson could see time there as well.
“We lack depth in the secondary, but I’m excited about who we have back there,” said Aiello.
special teams, Hutchinson and Rockwell will handle the long-snapping
chores, while Klossner, Cambers and Worthing will handle the kick-off
and punt return duties.
Junior Tanner Hollenbeck will handle the kicking and punting duties.
“(Hollenbeck) came over from the soccer program,” said Aiello. “He’s working at other positions, and is coming along.
He’s brand new to it, but by mid-season I expect him to be doing some good things for us in the kicking and punting game.
always nice to have that weapon,” added Aiello. “If you have a good
kicker / punter, it helps you win the field-position battle — that’s our
ON 2017 SCHEDULE
Tioga opened the
2016 season against the defending Class C state champion Chenango Forks.
Friday, the Tigers open this season against defending Class C state
champion Newark Valley.
“It’s tough to face the defending Class C
state champion for the second year in a row, but why not,” said Aiello.
“Why not give your kids that challenge, and meet that challenge head on
and see what you can do.
“Must be Section IV respects our
program,” he noted. “I look at the schedule we had last year, and we had
a tough schedule. We played three Class B schools, as well as defending
Class C champs, and the eventual Class C champs.
“We’re playing a
tough non-league schedule again this year, and have the same attitude
about it — those games will make us better.”
ON NON-DIVISIONAL SLATE
Valley is a rivalry game, and it’s a great atmosphere to play in,” said
Aiello. “Playing a team like that will show the things we’re doing
well, and it will show the mistakes we’re making.
“I really like
playing Delhi because they are a strong opponent, and it will give us a
gauge to how we match up against the other side of Section IV.
“In terms of non-league games, I really can’t ask for much better,” added Aiello.
ON DIVISIONAL SCHEDULE
have some games circled later on in the season once we get into
division play,” said Aiello in reference to the Groton and Notre Dame
“I think the division is very similar to last year. We
know that everyone circles the TIoga game, and we know they’re going to
treat that as a very big game.
“Groton has rebuilt its program in
the last couple years, and last year’s division title was an indication
of that,” said Aiello. “Groton had a great game plan for us last year,
and really ran their offense well; that will be a tough game.
never know what Notre Dame will bring to the table, but they always
have athletes,” noted Aiello. “Their coaching staff has made some
changes that makes them even more dangerous.
“We travel on
Saturday for afternoon games at Edison, Newfield and Moravia,” added
Aiello. “We were not very good on the road last year, so we’ll have to
make some adjustments there.”
IN PHOTO: Tioga coach Nick Aiello (left) and senior QB Connor Hutchinson during the 2016 season. ... VSR STOCK PHOTO.
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