CARTHAGE — In his first season as head coach, Jason Coffman inherits a Carthage team that is poised to make another deep run in sectionals.
After falling to Indian River in the Section 3 Class A final last season, the Comets return most of their key starters on offense and defense.
“We have about 14 returning starters, we’ve dealt with some kids transferring and a couple of kids getting banged up early but still a very positive start to the season,” Coffman said during the first week of practice.
Part of the offense returning is quarterback Nick Cavellier and wide receiver Elijah Whitfield. Cavellier finished last season with 795 passing yards and 10 passing touchdowns in his first year as starting quarterback at the varsity level. The junior also ran for a little under 500 yards.
Cavellier will have Thomas Albright and Elijah Whitfield returning at receiver with Josh Demko beginning his first full season with the varsity squad.
Demko may be able to take advantage of playing alongside Albright and Whitfield.
“He’s very fortunate to have Thomas Albright and Elijah Whitfield back at receiver,” Coffman said. “Josh is somebody that is probably going to get, maybe not the other team’s best defender all the time and he really has to be able to exploit that.”
The receiving team’s depth alone makes it one of the stronger parts of the offense.
“The wide receiver core is very deep and very experienced, we have a lot of guys who have played a lot of games and have a lot of minutes underneath their belt,” Whitfield said. “We have to lead the offense if we’re struggling in other places and we need to make the most of it.”
Balancing out Carthage’s offensive approach is a run game led by senior Fombo Azah. At fullback last year, Azah rushed for 501 yards and 12 touchdowns. His strength and ability to push through the line made him a valuable asset in the red zone.
Azah backed up the graduated Jake Demko last year but is ready to assume the starting role.
“I’ve been ready for it for a while, I’ve been prepared,” Azah said. “They’ve been coaching me up well for these past few years. I haven’t started at tailback but this year they moved me up, they’re expecting a lot out of me and I’m ready for the position.”
The line providing him the holes to run through is experienced and has played together for a few years now. But blocking for Azah is different than blocking for Demko.
“It’s a lot different,” said offensive lineman Gaige Orton. “For Jake we had to block way outside, which is a lot more difficult than just running forward and getting who we had to get in front of us with Fombo going up the middle.”
Class A looks a little different in Section 3 this year with only six teams playing in one division. Alongside Carthage is Indian River, Auburn, Central Square, East Syracuse-Minoa and Whitesboro.