NTL FOOTBALL: SAYRE'S GORMAN COUNTING ON EXPERIENCE, LEADERSHIP FOR SUCCESSFUL 2021 SEASON (2021-08-26)

By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
SAYRE — The Sayre Redskins bring back a host of experienced players on a roster that includes 13 seniors. Coach Kevin Gorman believes the leadership on the team will lead to a successful 2021.

(Sayre opens the 2021 season Friday night at home against Towanda. Game time is 7 p.m.)

 “I think the leadership, and being an older, veteran team is a big strength for us,” said Gorman.

“We have a lot of guys — juniors and seniors, who have played a lot of football for us in a three-year span,” noted Gorman. “We have guys who have been there before, and who are leaders.

“We may not have a lot of vocal leaders, but we have a lot of guys who handle their business and get it done,” he added. “I think the younger kids look up to that.”

Senior Nik Polzella will anchor the offensive line at center, with sophomore Gabe Horton backing him up.

Seniors Cayden Firestine and Seth Lattimer will start at guard, with junior Dylan Casterline, and sophomores Aiden Reed and Nate Polzella providing depth.

Senior Donovan Wynn and junior Austin Malanoski will get the starting nod at tackle, with seniors Kannon VanDuzer, Ethan Ray and Bricen Vaughan backing them up.

Freshman Mason Rucker, Mike Griffin, and Brayden Schrader will also provide depth along the offensive line.

Gorman said replacing a pair of three-year starters on the offensive line is his biggest concern.

“We have some guys back up front,” said Gorman. “Nik Polzella and Cayden Firestine have played a lot of football for us. Donovan Wynn has played a lot of football, but mostly on the defensive side of the ball. This is his first year on offense with significant reps.

“Seth Lattimer played for us as a freshman, then took a year off. He got time last year, but not as much as I would have liked,” noted Gorman. “This will be Austin’s (Malanoski) first varsity starting experience.

“You do get nervous adding new faces who are replacing two three-year starters,” he added. “Making sure our offensive line is one unit all together is definitely the biggest worry heading into the year.”

Senior Brayden Horton, who missed last season with  thumb injury, will direct the offense at quarterback. Junior Lucas Horton and sophomore Tanner Green will serve as back-ups.

Seniors David Northrup and Jake Bennett, and junior Zach Garrity will handle the majority of action at running back, with sophomores Kaden Bennett and Kendrick Ross vying for carries.

Lucas Horton, seniors Josh Arnold and Dom Fabbri, and junior Jackson Hubbard will man the wide receiver spots, with senior Dylan Watkins, juniors Joey VanAllen and Jack Ennis, and freshman Nick Pellicano also vying for time.

Junior Glenn Romberger will start at tight end.

“It sounds like we have a lot of depth in the backfield or at wide receiver, but in reality we run a lot of three- and four-receiver sets,” said Gorman.

“Some of our depth is young and unproven,” he noted. “We need to see how they’ll do in a game under the lights on a Friday night in a game situation. It’s different than a scrimmage.

“The big thing is who can give someone a break, whether it’s for 10 plays or three,” added Gorman. “And that goes for our entire team, not just at running back and wide receiver.”

Gorman takes comfort in returning so many skill-position players.

“Having Brayden (Horton) back for another year is nice.

“Lucas (Horton), Josh (Arnold), and Dom (Fabbri) have been in the system for so long, it’s nice to have them back,” said Gorman.

“Having David (Northrup), Jake (Bennett), and Zach (Garrity) back as our first three (running) backs, is nice, too. They’ve all carried the ball for us in the past.

“This senior group was the freshman group when I started, it’s good to have them all back,” added Gorman. “They really know what we are expecting.”

There is a concern about keeping everyone happy, but Gorman says they’ve discussed it.

“Kids will be kids. If they’re not getting the ball if they’re open, or not carrying the ball as much as they would like, there’s always the chance they’ll complain, or get frustrated.

“We’ve had the discussion with these guys: there’s only one football,” said Gorman. “As much as I would love to see each receiver with six catches, and each running back with 10 carries, that’s just now how it works.

“We’re going to ride the hot hand … if we’re able to run the ball, we’ll go with that until the defense stops us.

“It’s always a concern that kids will get discouraged or frustrated, but we’ve had enough talks about this,” added Gorman. “It’s all about competition. I like to see they want the ball, but at the same time they have to understand they can’t get the ball every play.”

Defensively, Romberger and Nik Polzella will anchor the defensive line at tackle, with Firestine and Wynn starting at defensive end.

Lattimer, Reed, Nate Polzella will vie for time at defensive end, while Casterline, Malanoski, Vaughan, VanDuzer, and Gabe Horton will vie for time at tackles.

“We have some depth up front, but some of that depth is kids who have never played in a varsity game,” said Gorman.

Garrity will start at middle linebacker, with Jake Bennett and Northrup manning the outside linebacker spots.

Kaden Bennett will see action in the middle and on the outside, while VanAllen and Jack Ennis will back-up at outside linebackers.

“Our linebackers should be a real strength for our defense,” said Gorman. “They’ve all played a lot of football for us.”

Lucas Horton and Fabbri will start at cornerback, with Arnold, Ross, and Pellicano also seeing time there.

Hubbard and Watkins will start at safety, with Aiden Reed vying for time.

“We can move a lot of the kids in the secondary around to play either safety or corner,” Gorman said.

Gorman believes Kaden Bennett could be a young player to watch this season.

“Kaden Bennett hit a growth spurt this summer.

“He probably grew five inches and added 20 pounds,” said Gorman. “He was a kid we had our eye on to compete for a spot in the secondary and wide receiver. Now, he is in the mix at running back and linebacker.

“Those growth spurts are always good to see,” laughed Gorman.

On special teams, Fabbri will serve as long-snapper, with Lucas Horton punting, and Aiden Ennis or Northrup handling the kicking chores.

Arnold will return punts, while Jake Bennett and Garrity will be deep on kick-off returns.

After a 2020 season with just three games, Gorman said the expectations for the 2021 season remain the same as always.

“We’ve talked about expectations.

“After playing just three games last year, we’ve told the guys to take it one game at a time, and really enjoy the moment because at any time our season could be done,” said Gorman.

“It’s one game at a time … you can’t look for Week 11, before you’ve even played Week 1.

“But, the expectation for us is to always make Districts,” added Gorman.

THE NTL SMALL SCHOOL DIVISION
“I think our division is going to be very competitive,” said Gorman. “The two additions (South Williamsport and Northwest Area) make the Small School Division even tougher. Both those teams play a physical style of football.

“Muncy returns everyone, and they’ve been a thorn in our side,” noted Gorman. “Montgomery won’t be an easy out by any stretch of the imagination.

“The NTL as a whole, even in the Large School, I think you’re going to see a lot of teams playing for division titles, and even District playoff spots,” Gorman added.

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IN PHOTO: Sayre senior Brayden Horton. … VSR STOCK PHOTO.