PHILADELPHIA — Rowan Marsell and Michael Davis and their Indian River teammates were denied a fall football season last year because of the pandemic.
The Warriors continue to deal with COVID-19 issues as they try to return to the field and make the best of the “new normal.”
Indian River’s first two games of this season have been canceled, first when Utica Proctor opted out of what would have been a season-opening game on Sept. 3, then when this Friday’s game against West Genesee was called when more than half of the Warriors’ team was placed in quarantine during the first week of practice.
“It’s definitely tougher, but it’s just one more road block we have to overcome and we’ll be back,” Marsell said.
With the quarantine period scheduled to expire this week, Indian River hopes to finally open its season when it hosts Fayetteville-Manlius on Sept. 17.
“I think we’re all looking forward to being together again, we’re all excited because that’s coming up soon,” Marsell said. “I think our guys actually have pretty good morale right now, we’re all sticking together and even the guys at home are working hard with their individual workouts.”
Davis, one of the emerging team leaders, agreed.
“I think we’ve been working hard all offseason waiting for this moment,” Davis said. “So I think all of us are ready.”
The quarantine has cut down on practice participants as only 12 players took part in team drills and practice last Friday afternoon, compared with 33 on the first day. But it hasn’t dampened spirits.
“We can’t feel bad for ourselves, we’ve got to make the situation better and turn it into a positive,” Davis said.
“That’s all you can do,” Marsell said. “We’re dealt a bad hand right now, but everybody should be back soon.”
Both Marsell and Davis did make the most of the spring season, by spearheading the Warriors’ rushing attack.
“I always wanted to be (a running back), so it was a fun switch for me,” Rowan Marsell said.
In six games, Marsell rushed for 1,093 yards and 15 touchdowns, while Davis racked up 596 yards and four scores on the ground.
“I’d say Rowan is more of an elusive back and he can use his speed,” Davis said. “I’m more about just getting downhill and getting those gritty yards.”
“They’re actually a little bit different,” Indian River head coach Cory Marsell said. “Rowan’s style is a little bit more explosive, a little bit more speed. Michael’s has a little more power, some great initial cuts, great feet.
“They complement each other well, they block for each other very well, they’re a good group.”
Davis is a bonafide two-way threat as he totaled 22 tackles as a linebacker last year, a position both he and Marsell will patrol this season.
“I honestly like both equally,” Davis said of playing on both sides of the ball.
“Both Rowan and Michael are linebackers, Rowan’s best position is probably safety,” Cory Marsell said. “But Michael is a very good linebacker. So if he needs a break in a game, it will probably come on offense more than on defense because he’s going to be the leader of our team on the defensive side.”
Indian River’s team is anchored by a wealth of returners on both its offensive and defensive lines.
“We want to be the hardest-working team, definitely, so that’s what we put all of our focus into,” Rowan Marsell said. “And it all starts with our offensive line, they’re a huge part of our offense. That’s where it’s at, the O-line.”
Key returners on the line include seniors Camdin Fox, Matt Gleason, Ethan LaClair, Gannon Lynch, Wyatt Marcellus and Jake Whitmore.
Whitmore clearly has emerged as the anchor of the Warriors’ defensive line.
“Jake is probably one of the best defensive linemen, if not the best, in Section 3,” Cory Marsell said. “There’s no doubt and you’re not going to hear me say that very often. The kid started for us as a freshman and this is going to be his senior year. So I hope he gets the chance to finish out his senior year in a good way.
“He’s very, very fast and very, very strong. So he’s the leader on the D-line.”
Senior Reagan Alexander will start at quarterback for Indian River, after taking over the position from Rowan Marsell during the spring season.
The Warriors forged a 5-1 record in the spring, including wins over rival Carthage, as well as against Whitesboro and East Syracuse-Minoa. The only loss came in an 18-8 defeat against Corning-Painted Post of Section 4.
“It was hard, man,” Rowan Marsell said of no season last fall. “It drove my dad crazy, he was all over the house, didn’t know what to do with himself. But it sucked for everybody, but when the spring came, we were definitely ready to play, it was fun.”
Indian River will compete in Section 3’s Class A National Division, which also includes Carthage, Central Square, Fulton and Whitesboro.
The Class A American Division includes three teams that moved down from Class AA — Christian Brothers Academy, Fayetteville-Manlius and West Genesee — as well as Auburn and ESM.
The Warriors will square off against Carthage on Sept. 24 at Indian River.
“We’ve got pretty good chemistry from all being together last (season), it feels like we never really left from the spring,” Rowan Marsell said. “We’re all in pretty good shape, we’re definitely all on the same page together.”
Coach Marsell has striven to keep his players upbeat during the challenges of having part of the team in quarantine.
“The good thing was I saw almost every one of the guys online today,” he said last week. “So we had a chance to talk and make sure their minds are in a good spot. And the 12 that we had out here, we had them working hard.
“We’re going to find out, I don’t know how it’s going to play out. I just hope the kids get as close to a full season as possible. We’re not going to have a full season because we lost game one, but hopefully that’s it.”
Rowan Marsell has already committed to attend the University of Delaware to play Division I lacrosse, but he clearly holds football close to his heart.
“That’s a tough one,” Rowan Marsell said. “I like the atmosphere of football definitely, the team atmosphere, the Friday night lights, definitely the football atmosphere. I’m going to college to play lacrosse, also, so I feel like this is my last chance to play football.”
Here’s look at the area’s Section 3 teams:
CLASS A NATIONAL
Coach: Jason Coffman
2021 spring record: 3-1
2019 record: 11-2
Players to watch: Caleb Ashlaw (Sr, OL/DL), Lincoln Escudero (Sr., QB/DB), Grayson Jackson (Sr., WR/DB), Carter Kempney (Sr., RB/DB).
Outlook: Coming off a banner season in 2019, Carthage won three out of four games in the spring in Fall Season II. Two autumns ago, the Comets went 11-2 and won the Class A American division title and went all the way to the state championship game at the Carrier Dome, where they were outlasted by Cornwall, 30-27, of Section 9. “This year Carthage will be extremely young on both sides of the ball,” Carthage coach Jason Coffman said. “With just one player returning from the 2019 team, and only four starters returning from the 2020 ‘Spring season.’” That one player returning with experience is senior running back and defensive back Carter Kempney, who will attend Syracuse to play lacrosse. Other team leaders include senior quarterback/defensive back Lincoln Escudero , senior wide receiver/defensive back Grayson Jackson and offensive/defensive lineman Caleb Ashlaw. “The Comets will rely heavily on Lincoln Escudero and Carter Kempney to lead us early in the year,” added Coffman, whose team will play away from home for the first four weeks of the season before their newly-installed turf is ready on their home field, hopefully for Oct. 1 against Fulton.
Indian River Warriors
Coach: Cory Marsell
2021 spring record: 5-1
2019 record: 7-2
Players to watch: Reagan Alexander (Sr., QB/DB), Ramsey Burnard (Sr., RB/DB), Michael Davis (Sr., RB/LB), Camdin Fox (Sr., OL/DL), Matt Gleason (Sr., OL/DL), Ethan LaClair (Sr., OL/DL), Gannon Lynch (Sr., OL/DL), Wyatt Marcellus (Sr., OL/DL), Rowan Marsell (Sr., RB/LB), Jamon Turner (Sr., TE/DB), Jake Whitmore (Sr., OL/DL).
CLASS B NORTH
South Jefferson Spartans
Coach: Randy Fuller
2021 spring record: 1-2
2019 record: 5-3
Players to watch: Ryan Comstock (Sr., OL/DL), Cole Doldo (Sr., RB/LB), tight end/linebacker Will Littell (Sr., TE/LB), and Carter Recore (Sr., RB/DB).A.
Outlook: South Jefferson is looking to continue to make forward progress this fall. The Spartans forged a 5-3 record in the 2019 season in the Class B West Division, capped by reaching a sectional quarterfinal game. This success came after faring 8-1 while playing in Section 3’s Developmental Division in 2018. South Jefferson sports 10 players returning from the team which fared 1-2 in the Fall Season II during the spring. The top returners include a quartet of seniors — offensive/defensive lineman Ryan Comstock, running back/linebacker Cole Doldo, tight end/linebacker Will Littell and running back/defensive back Carter Recore. This year’s team roster sports 25 players. “There seems to be a high level of excitement from the players for this season,” South Jefferson coach Randy Fuller said. “The boys are working hard each day to get better.”
General Brown Lions
Coach: Doug Black
2021 spring record: 3-2
2019 record: 4-4
Players to watch: AJ Hall (Sr., OL/DL), Joey Harvill (Sr., OL/DL), Brandon Jewett (Sr., C/LB), Jacob King (Sr., OL/DE), Eli Rawleigh (Sr., QB/S), Derian Salter (Sr., TE/DL), Nate Snow (Sr. TE/S).
Outlook: The Lions won three of five games in the spring season after coming on strong in the second half of the 2019 campaign, including a 48-0 victory over division rival Lowville. This year, General Brown will look for senior leadership from versatile quarterback/safety Eli Rawleigh, center/linebacker Brandon Jewett, tight end/safety Nate Snow, offensive/defensive lineman AJ Hall, offensive lineman/defensive end Jacob King, tight end/defensive lineman Derian Salter and offensive/defensive lineman Joey Harvill. Overall, coach Doug Black calls this group “a very inexperienced football team.” He continued: “2021 will be a rebuilding year with a lot of first-year starters in key positions. Losing the talent and leadership of three All CNY players will be very difficult to replace.”
Lowville Red Raiders
Coach: Josh Coffman
2021 spring record: 3-1
2019 record: 10-1
Players to watch: Hayden Beyer (Sr., RB/LB), Elijah Engelhart (Sr., QB/S), Daniel Fayle, Sr., OL/DE), Trent Nortz (Sr., FB/DE).
Outlook: Lowville rolled to a 10-1 record in 2019, including claiming a Section 3 Class C championship in the Carrier Dome with a 41-6 triumph over Cato-Meridian. The Red Raiders season came to an end in a 44-36 loss to Susquehanna Valley in a state regional game. Lowville went on to win three of four games in its Fall Season II in the spring. The Red Raiders have two returning starters from the 2019 team — Trent Nortz and Daniel Fayle — but in all, have seven returning seniors from the spring season.“We have a good group, a nice blend of 11 seniors, 19 juniors, and one sophomore,” Lowville coach Josh Coffman said. “With last year being such a strange year it might take a little time for us hit our stride, but if we can stay healthy and keep improving, we can be a tough team by the end of the season.” Coffman added about his team positionally: “A lot of new faces in the backfield (Elijah Engelhart at quarterback, Hayden Beyer at running back, and Trent Nortz at fullback) but all are seniors and have played a lot of football over the years.”
CLASS D NORTH-WEST
Beaver River Beavers
Coach: Matt Lyndaker
2021 spring record: 0-3
2019 record: 6-3
Players to watch: Owen Booth (Sr., OL/DL), Derek Cheney (Sr., OL/DL), Dillon Compo (Sr., OL/DL), Jonah Mullin (Sr., QB/DB).
Outlook: Beaver River fared 6-3 in 2019, including 5-2 in regular season play. The Beavers then went 0-3 last spring in the Fall Season II. The team has four players returning from the 2019 squad, all seniors, and sport 23 players on its roster this season. Versatile senior Jonah Mullin will start at quarterback and defensive back and “will be a player to watch on both sides of the ball,” according to Beaver River coach Matt Lyndaker. The team also solid on both the offensive and defensive line, anchored by seniors Owen Booth, Derek Cheney and Dillon Compo. “I expect to be very competitive each game,” Lyndaker said.
Sandy Creek Comets
Coach: Mike Stevens
2021 spring record: 3-2
2019 record: 1-7
Players to watch: Evan Allen (Sr., TE/DB), Ryan Barney (Jr., WR/DB), Sawyer Belaus (Jr., OL/DL), Maddox Brown (Sr., RB/LB), Ibu Diatta (Sr., OL, DL), Mason Ennist (So., RB/LB), James Guile (So., C-OL/DL), Hayden Haines (Jr., TE/DB), Wyatt Hilton (Sr., QB/RB), Dustin Mackey (Jr., QB/DB), Reagan Macklen (Jr., C-OL/DL), Jordan Mikels (Sr., OL/DL), Trayton Mullin (Sr., OL/DL), Maddox Palmer (So., WR/DB), Zach Pettit (So., OL/DL), Cade Stoker (Jr., RB/LB), Justin Thayer (Sr., RB/LB),
Outlook: Perennial Section 3 power Sandy Creek struggled in the 2019 season by faring 1-7. Sandy Creek bounced back by winning three of five games in the Fall Season II in the spring, capped by a 21-0 win against Pulaski on April 23. The Comets return a slew of players, including seniors Evan Allen, Maddox Brown, Ibu Diatta, Wyatt Hilton, Trayton Mullin and Justin Thayer. This will be Mike Stevens’ 26th year of coaching at Sandy Creek, including his 23rd as varsity football coach at the school.
South Lewis Falcons
Coach: Mike Absolom
2021 spring record: 0-2
2019 record: 6-1
Players to watch: Owen Highers (Sr., WR/DB), Clayton Kreager (Jr., QB/DB), Parker Kristoff (Sr., RB/LB), Daniel Ortileb (Sr., RB/LB), Cody Spann (Sr., QB/DB).
Outlook: The Falcons won both of their games this spring, but went 6-1 in Section 3’s Class C Division in eight-man football in 2019. This fall’s team includes six seniors and 14 underclassmen, including 10 juniors. “This year’s team is a mix of veteran players and young players who have not experienced varsity football due to the shortened Fall II season last year,” South Lewis coach Mike Absolom said. “We will be relying on our seniors for leadership.”
Thousand Islands Vikings
Coach: Bernie Bernhardt
2021 spring record: 3-0
2019 record: 2-6
Players to watch: Devin Davis (Jr., RB/LB), and Jack Ludlow (So., QB), Brayden Wiley (Sr., WR).
Outlook: This will be Bernie Bernhardt’s first season as the Vikings’ varsity football coach. In 2019, the Thousand Islands went 2-6 in Class D in Section 3, but qualified for the playoffs. In its first season in 8-Man football, the Vikings won all three of their games in the spring. “With low numbers (15) it forced us to go to eight man,” Bernhardt said. “The program’s goal is to get back to 11-man football with the help of stronger modified numbers. This fall, Thousand Islands is relying on a returning core of leaders on offense, including senior wide receiver Brayden Wiley, junior running back/linebacker Devin Davis and sophomore quarterback Jack Ludlow. “While we do have a good amount of returning varsity players, experience is still low due to COVID,” Bernhardt added.
Coach: Kyle LaLonde
2021 spring record: 1-3
2019 record: 5-3.
Players to watch: Tristin Clifford (Jr., OL/DL), Joel Davis (Sr., QB/DB), Deante Hall (Sr., RB/DB), Cain Roberts (Sr., TE/LB).
Outlook: The Cyclones won one of four games in the Fall II season in the spring. But in 2019, they had a season to remember, going 5-3 and winning a Section 10 championship with a 44-28 victory over Canton on Watertown’s home turf, which was the Cyclones’ first sectional championship in 21 years. The team has a host of seniors on the roster, including running back/defensive back Deante Hall, senior quarterback/defensive back Joel Davis and senior tight end/linebacker Cain Roberts, and is also looking for leadership from junior offensive/defensive lineman Tristin Clifford. Watertown will once again compete in the Northern Athletic Conference, with its season opener at Malone at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. In the spring, the Cyclones played against Section 3 opponents, scoring a win against Beaver River, but falling to Lowville, Indian River and Carthage. “We are very excited for the season with having 15 seniors on the roster,” Watertown coach Kyle LaLonde said.