Rush-Henrietta’s Jo Jo Ortiz brings the ball upfield.
While it may have been a surprise that a Rush-Henrietta team with sophomores in key places played for a football sectional championship last season, that won’t be the case if it happens again in 2014.
“Basically, every game you want to think about the finals and play every game like it is the finals,” Rush-Henrietta running back/receiver Fardan Allen said. “Because we do have different expectations this year, to basically win it all.”
It may be a new high school season in Section V, but continuity can count.
The Royal Comets, who fell hard to eventual state champion Aquinas in the Section V Class AA final, have seven of their 11 offensive starters back. Eight return to the defense.
That means Rush-Henrietta can get up to speed during the preseason and early in the regular season, the plays and formations should click with the players. That can put the high-tempo spread offense that Rush-Henrietta runs into a higher gear.
And at the controls of this fast-paced offense is junior quarterback Jared Gerbino, who is an inch taller and about 15 pounds heavier at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds. This will be his second season as the team’s starting quarterback.
“It’s been successful because of the kids we have at this school,” Rush-Henrietta coach Joe Montesano said of the Royal Comets offense. “We usually have some pretty good athletes, and our whole philosophy is to spread the field and make teams not only defend the length of the field, but the width of the field.
“We want to get the ball into the hands our playmakers as quick as we can. I think the hardest thing to do in football is to tackle someone in open space.”
2013 record: 7-3.
Coach: Joe Montesano (10th season, 61-27).
League: Monroe County Division I.
Section V class: AA.
First game: Saturday, Sept. 5, Fairport at Rush-Henrietta, 2 p.m.
Returning starters: Jared Gerbino (junior, QB, 6-4, 215, 1,801 yards passing with 19 touchdowns; 679 yards rushing with 6 touchdowns); Fardan Allen (sr., RB/WR/S, 5-11, 185); Keanu Heedrum (sr., OL/DL, 6-2, 265); Joseph Ortiz (jr., WR/DB, 5-9, 170); John Fecik (sr., LB, 5-11, 205).
Keys to success: “Keeping Jared healthy is a big thing,” Montesano said. So much of the offense relies on the quarterback, even with running plays. … Limit turnovers and be efficient on third down. Rush-Henrietta’s offense can overwhelm a defense. The Royal Comets defense can get into trouble, however, if its on the field longer than normal. … Rush-Henrietta’s defense needs to stand up better against the run, and that may happen since many of the linebackers and linemen are a year older and stronger.
Outlook: It’s going to be difficult for most opponents to stop or keep up with the Royal Comets on the scoreboard without an offense that can control the clock.
Gerbino, Ortiz and Allen gained a lot of confidence last season. There are a lot less questions about their ability to play after success against older players last season. Even a lopsided loss to Aquinas in the 2014 sectional final can be a plus, as in a strong incentive for a rematch or another championship game appearance.