The Irondequoit Eagles are on the radar screen this time, when it comes to contenders for a Section V football championship.
That’s what happens when a team rebounds from a three-game losing streak and keeps winning until the semifinal round of the state tournament. Irondequoit will be taken seriously long before the Class A sectional tournament begins in October. The Eagles expect to be prepared.
“For sure it’s different,” Irondequoit senior quarterback Sean Mannion said. “We had a lot of guys graduate, a lot of skill position players, but for the most part, our whole line is still intact and I’m back.
“And we’ve got guys who didn’t play but were on the team and know what the deal is. Especially, talking about the line, they were great last year, and we have four or five of them back. Really excited about that.”
The leader of that group is Cameron Rohr, a Democrat and Chronicle All-Greater Rochester team selection by area coaches last season as a junior. The Eagles (8-4) offensive line cleared the way for ball carriers to run for more than 2,800 yards. Some of these same linemen turn around and try to jam the running game of opponents, perhaps No. 1 on a high school defense’s to-do list.
“It shook itself out pretty quickly in the weight room,” Irondequoit coach Dan Fichter said. “When it came time to compete, (the linemen) stepped right up. They were leaders as sophomores.”
The Eagles do have holes to fill. Who will run behind this trusted offensive line, and can they produce at the same level as the 2014 group?
John Lombardi, who ran well as a freshman, has transferred to Salisbury School in Connecticut with the thought of playing Division I college lacrosse someday. Curtis Gray, a senior, transferred to East Irondequoit Eastridge, a team very capable of providing more than a stiff test in Irondequoit’s opener.
“Would you rather have the phenomenal tailback or would you rather have the great offensive line?” Fichter said. “We’re going to find out, because we have three new tailbacks.”
2014 season: 8-4, Section V Class A champions lost to Indian River, state semifinals.
Coach: Dan Fichter, third season, 11-10.
League: Monroe County (Division III).
First game: Friday, Sept. 4 vs. Eastridge at Irondequoit.
Returning starters: 7 offense/7 defense.
Outlook: The Eagles can win the Section V Class A title again, but probably want to try it without a three-game losing streak. The phrase “game management” comes up in football discussions these days, and Fichter is a fan of Mannion’s style, from his ability to run Irondequoit’s offense at different paces to the small details that allows the unit to run plays on time. “Sean can throw it anywhere he wants,” Fichter also pointed out. An offensive line with experience to go along with individual talent is a nice starting point for a high school offense. Weak play in this area can make it difficult for a team to practice properly, let alone win. “We don’t practice any different,” Rohr said. “We just go out there and get our job done everyday. That will lead us to where we gotta be.” Can the Eagles get back to where they want to be? “I think we snuck up on some teams last year,” Fichter said. “They didn’t think, so we did. This year, everybody is thinking ‘OK, that’s the team that needs to be beaten.’ There’s positives and negatives, but you never want to downplay winning a title because it was awesome for these kids, awesome for the community, a great ride. We’re proud of everyone that was involved. We’re going to do our best to win Game 1.”