DEXTER — Having lost 16 players to graduation following last season, the new-look General Brown football team won’t have as clear of a path to the sectional finals as in years past.
Coach Doug Black was candid about where the Lions are at prior to the fourth day of practice.
“This is kind of a different situation for us, we don’t have the returners we’ve had in the past,” Black said. “This is probably, I’ve been here, this will be my 12th year, probably the weakest team I’ve had in 12 years, so we have a lot of work to do.”
With key running backs like Dom Lutz and Tre Coney graduated, sophomore Eli Rawleigh is expected to pick up much of the slack in the backfield. He’ll also have some help from senior fullback Cory Smith.
“I’m more worried about how we do as a team, us being a younger team and with how many people we lost, I’m hoping we can compete this year,” Rawleigh said.
According to Black, much of these first few weeks involves getting the younger players up to speed. With this being one of the most inexperienced teams he’s coached at General Brown, Black has had to adjust his coaching style to focus on getting back to the fundamentals.
One of the new players expected to play a major role is quarterback Nate Heller. Heller’s older brother, Jake, started at QB last season as a senior and finished with 1,073 passing yards and 18 touchdown passes. Nate looks to fill his brother’s shoes, but like the rest of the rookies, he will have to adjust to varsity football.
“He’s very athletic as far as quickness, so that’s a bonus for us in running the option,” Black said. “But again, a lot of it is going to be experience so it’s going to be a learning process those first few weeks.”
Heller is in a tricky position as a first-year varsity player and the quarterback. He’s still learning like the rest of the new guys, but is essentially obligated to be a leader due to the position he plays.
“Yeah it is a challenge, but I’ve been playing quarterback for a long time and it’s kind of second nature I guess to me, you have to remember all the stuff,” Heller said. “With the new offense this year, it will definitely be tough, too.”
Rawleigh, as one of the few returning players, will have to assume a leadership role to help newcomers. He expects there to be growing pains in the first few weeks of the season, the Lions have Canastota scheduled for week one, but will most likely be using all of the prep time to hammer down the fundamentals.