MASSENA — After going winless last season, the Massena football team has nowhere to go but up in 2019.
And that’s exactly what coach Nick Zappia expects.
“We had a very young team last year and the kids didn’t always believe they could compete. We have a lot of kids back and I know we’ll be more competitive this year,” said Zappia, who is heading into his third year as head coach of the varsity Red Raiders.
“Nobody wants a repeat of last year and this group has been working their butts off so that it doesn’t happen. From what we’ve seen so far, we have no excuses not to be competitive,” he added.
The Red Raiders feature nearly twice as many underclassmen as seniors and will be counting on the development of a talented core of nine sophomores this season.
One of only three returning seniors, Zachary Austin will serve as a co-captain and fill a leadership role at tight end and outside linebacker. Junior co-captains Zack Goolden and Preston Guynup are counted on to be leaders on both sides of the ball. Goolden is due to take over the majority of the rushing duties after splitting time between quarterback and tailback last spring, and Guynup is slated to be part of a young but promising core of linemen that also includes sophomores Mark Perry and Nathan Rourke along with freshman Isaiah Austin. Juniors Logan Premo and Bailey O’Leary are centering the offensive line while senior Hunter Armstrong, who moved back into the Massena school district after having spent the last two years in Florida, is due to be an offensive guard and defensive nose guard.
Junior tailback Michael Kuhn, who is also expected to be one of the leading place-kickers in the NAC, may play more of a contributing role out of the Red Raider backfield, which should also get a boost from the addition of off-season senior transfer Jaden McCollum, who is on tap to handle fullback duties along with returning senior Ethan Miller.
Another key returnee is sophomore quarterback Dominic Monacelli, who was called up to the varsity ranks midway through last season. The Red Raider receiving corps includes returning senior Hunter Pryce along with veteran juniors Dylan Lazore and Ty Page and first-year sophomores Thomas McGregor, Timothy Marshall and Remington Charleson.
“We have some pretty good size up front and some real good kids at the skill positions so we’re going to look at doing some of the old things on offense that Massena football was known for,” Zappia said. “Only instead of three yards and a cloud of dust, now on the new fields, it’s three yards and a cloud of granulated rubber.”
The Red Raiders open the NAC season Sept. 6, at Ogdensburg Free Academy. For the Section 10 playoffs, they will are competing for Class A honors along with Canton Central and prodigal school, Watertown High, which returns to the NAC after spending the last 18 years in Section 3.