It’s not often a winning high school football team loses just three players to graduation.
By Mitch Silver
It’s not often a winning high school football team loses just three players to graduation. John Calandros, head coach of the Rye Country Day team that finished 5-4 last year has all but a trio of players back. “Our tackles Rick Wallace and Eli Rattrner, and linebacker Brian DiSanto, provided the leadership our underclassmen needed a year ago. Now, those 17 guys are the leaders.”
Let’s start with the skill positions. Reed Connor is a three-year starter at quarterback. He’ll be handing the ball once again to a fast, punishing group of runners. Ryan Wolitzer was the workhorse in 2014, and should see a lot of leather once again. Hannes Boehning is a tough, hard-running fullback type, while Jared Jones may well be the fastest player in the league — he’s clocked a 4.45 40-yard time. Factor in Cameron Kinder and Dylan Misisco, and Connor will have plenty of weapons on the ground or through the air.
Last year, Coach Calandros and his fellow coaches Charles Ogbonna, Mike Pollak, Andy Lopez, and Rich Knazik ran the old Woody Hayes/Ohio State offense, which Calandros summed up as, “Run first and pass when they come up to stop the run.” This year, he promises to put the ball in the air more often. “This is probably the fastest team we’ve ever had,” Coach Calandros noted.
Then he turned to the defense, practicing right in front of him in the summer heat. “We have nine starters back, and all of them can attack the ball. We lost some strong tacklers, but the boys who’ll be stepping in can do the job.” He mentioned junior James Nash as a player who’s made “huge gains” in the last 12 months.
While the team is virtually unchanged from a year ago, the schedule isn’t. Described by the coach as “the toughest we’ve had in all the years I’ve been here,” it kicks off with non-league Canterbury at home Saturday before the team travels north to meet Williston Northampton the following weekend. “They’ve got a lot of Division 1 recruits on those teams. It’s gonna be interesting.”
Three of the Wildcats’ four losses in 2014 were by a touchdown or less. Back then, all the talk was of the “wait till next year” kind. Well…it’s next year.