Five wins was fine, when it came to Greece Athena qualifying for last season’s Section V Class A football tournament.
Yunis Ashkar, a senior lineman in his third season with the Athena varsity, wants more. Ashkar would like the Trojans to stick around longer than one game next time, if the team makes it back into the playoffs.
“This season I would like to make things better,” Ashkar said. “Shape this team up, put the team into sectionals and make everyone know who we are.”
That has a nice sound to Athena coach Rob Cerone, who believes the Trojans are in good shape when it comes to leadership among the players. Senior running back Signory Mutach Kapend is in that role after he ran for 648 yards last season with six touchdowns, the top production among the returning offensive starters.
“I want to lead by example instead of just talking and talking and not doing nothing,” Mutach Kapend said. “In hypocrisy, there is no true victory. There’s no honor in that, there’s no faith in that, there’s no discipline in that.”
Athena’s linebacker Brandon Puritt goes through pass rushing drills.
Athena’s season may at times be in the hands of Mutach Kapend, given the inexperience of senior Nick Carnevale as a varsity quarterback. Carnevale lined up as a flanker last season, but has provided signs that the Trojans will make the lineup work.
“I really think we’re going to be able to run the ball, which is going to help,” Cerone said. “We’re pretty good up front, we have a good runner and couple of H-Backs that can block for him. He’s fast and aggressive.”
2013 record: 5-3.
Coach: Rob Cerone (20th season, 113-57-1).
League: Monroe County Division III.
Sectional class: A.
First game: Friday, Sept. 5 at Spencerport, 7 p.m.
Returning starters: 4 offense, 5 defense.
Players to watch: Brandon Pruitt (senior, OT/DL, 6-2½, 250); Osondi Dimgba (sr., WR/S, 6-2, 195); Vince Soeffing (jr., LB/H-Back, 5-10, 210); Yunis Ashkar (sr., DE/G, 6-2, 215); Signory Mutach Kapend (sr., RB/DB, 5-7, 165).
Keys to success: Help the quarterback. It’s a good idea for any team to stay away from third-and-long situations, especially if your quarterback is coming along. … Here’s where Athena’s defense comes in. Hold down oppossing offenses, the less Trojans will need to rally for wins, already a difficult task for experienced high school quarterbacks. … The reaction of the team when something goes wrong. A bad one can lead to a winnable game getting away. A good reaction can lead to confidence in the future.
Outlook: Greece Athena can still count itself among the favorites for a sectional championship and certainly a division title, unless the question at quarterback turns into something much worse. Victor, the team that knocked Athena out during the first round last season, is in Class AA. The Trojans beat each of the teams in their division this year last season, except Canandaigua.