The Kelly Gordon era begins Friday night at Ithaca High School as the Little Red welcomes Susquehanna Valley in their Section 4 football season opener.
Gordon, a 2007 Ithaca College graduate, was hired in April to replace Bill Bryant, former longtime director of athletics at the school. Gordon is the third coach at IHS in as many years; alum Ed Redmond left Lansing in 2008 and coached at his alma mater for four years before moving to Virginia.
Twenty-seven players were on the Ithaca preseason roster, including 11 seniors, who will try to turn around the fortunes of a program that has won 22 games in the past 14 seasons. Half of those victories came in two seasons (2009 and ’10). Ithaca went 1-8 last year, losing its last six games by an average score of 40-10.
The preseason quarterback battle has been between incumbent starter Julian Tino and fellow senior Naeem Clark. Both also play in the defensive backfield. Other key seniors include linemen Mike Gould (6-0, 274) and Anthony McCoy (6-3, 285), receivers Emmitt Houston and Aidan McCarthy, and running back Tyler Spencer-Goodrich.
Class B Susquehanna Valley finished last season at 1-8, its only victory a 28-26 defeat at Class C Trumansburg in Week 6. The Sabers have had similar struggles to the Little Red in recent years, amassing 18 wins over the past seven seasons.
Mike Ford is in his first year as Sabers coach after several seasons as an assistant on Jud Blanchard’s staff. Ford is hoping that his young players’ taste of success at the JV level — the junior varsity went 8-1 last year — will translate into varsity success.
Elsewhere in the area Friday night:
Dryden takes on visiting Oxford in a game to be played at Cortland High, due to turf problems at Volante Field;
Lansing travels to Groton in the teams’ first meeting since a 26-7 Groton win in 2010;
Moravia visits Unadilla Valley; and Trumansburg plays host to Spencer-Van Etten, which went 7-2 last year but will be without talented all-region quarterback Elijah Burns, who is now at Lansing.
Saturday’s local lineup includes Candor at Edison at 1:30 p.m., Newark Valley at Watkins Glen in a 7 p.m. kickoff, and Odessa-Montour at Seton Catholic Central, also at 7.