SALAMANCA — The Salamanca football program took a step forward in year two under coach Chad Bartoszek. Now, the Warriors face a test as they move to a higher classification and undergo changes at some key positions this fall.
Salamanca reached its first sectional championship game since 2001 in the spring, falling in the Section 6 Class D final, but faces a whole new slate of opponents as a Class C South team in 2021.
The Warriors finished 4-3 during the shortened campaign. Especially when Bartoszek considers his team’s roster limitations last year, he’s pleased with how far they went.
“I look back on it with a lot of pride,” he said. “I think there's a lot of seasons (where) you have regrets or you felt like you should have done a better job here or there, but the circumstances surrounding it just make it a prideful season. The kids were awesome. That was a great group of seniors. We kind of prided ourselves — we only had 19 varsity kids dressing or practicing here together and they were here every day. We always had the same group here. And they were good, they were tough and just great individuals.
“If we didn't have that, we wouldn't have made it to the finals because any absentees or any long-standing injuries would have shut that team down. They just went through everything, and you couple that with the COVID stuff that was going on, it was a special season that I'll never forget.”
THE WARRIORS will need to replace two members of the Times Herald’s New York Big 30 All-Star team, quarterback/defensive back Lucas McKenna and two-way lineman Jarod White. They return 13 letterwinners, including six with starting experience, led by TH New York All-Star lineman Kody Shinners. Senior Hayden Hoag is set to take over at quarterback and play with some experienced linemen up front, a talented sophomore receiver, Lucus Brown, and last year’s workhorse running back, junior Jesse Stahlman.
“We're going to need to dress a few sophomores, but our junior and senior class is talented, they've got enough there to win some games and our expectations are high,” Bartoszek said. “Coming off last year, I think these kids are expecting to win games and not just hoping that we can compete.”
The Warriors have key returners at most position groups, but not a lot of depth, Bartoszek noted.
“Our line … Shinner’s going to be a beast, Tre Turner was a captain and he's been starting at center for three years now,” he said. “We're returning our running back, Jesse Stahlman; Lucus Brown is as good as you're going to see at the skill position, and Hayden Hoag although he didn't play at all last year at quarterback, he's been a quarterback his entire life and he's been waiting for this opportunity. I would say we're dabbling in nice, different areas; we're not flush with depth across the board, by no means, we're thin as you can get at some positions, but that's just kind of life. We're going to have to get through and hopefully injuries don't creep up on us.”
Bartoszek admitted the Warriors didn’t have the traditional offseason he likes to put his teams through. Some players and coaches took vacations after a long school year, while Bartoszek prepared to take over as the school’s athletic director. But in August, their numbers started to pick up again in time for the start of practice.
“The back end of August, we definitely had a few good weeks of kids just getting an interest back in playing football again and then, (on) opening day, we had a whole bunch of kids show up,” he said. “So it wasn't a prototypical summer; I wouldn't want to duplicate (it) next year. I think my own personal changes, I was as busy as I've ever been this summer and that might have had some effect on it, (as did) kids wanting to get away for a while. I just think it was a little slower this summer and across the board we need to be a little bit more prepared for the summer, but the fall is falling into place here.”
SALAMANCA opens its season in Springville with a non-league game on Friday. At the end of just two weeks of official practice, the Warriors will need to be game-ready.
“To be honest, last year changed the way I see things a little bit, because as a football coach you've got to see it all before it happens,” Bartoszek said. “Then all of a sudden we just started playing last year. But these kids are resilient. They know what to do. The biggest thing I told them is just offensively, we need to mesh together in the pass game. I think our line knows what they're doing, the backs know what holes to hit, it's just meshing together in the pass game, the timing with a new quarterback is difficult. On defense, we're replacing two of our key positions at safety. That is huge, we need to see those players coming up and filling in on the run game. Other than that, I think the guys are ready.”
Salamanca became a power running team that relied on defense to get through some tough games last spring. Replicating that interior line play won’t be easy without White.
“We do have enough of those guys back inside the box to do what we did last year, we have lost a few though,” Bartoszek said. “We're not going to look exactly the same. We're a little smaller, we're a little faster on our offensive line and our defensive line, losing Jarod White, he was a beast. He's as big as you're going to get and probably as good as you're going to get. So we don't have that same type of player, but our goal is still going to be to establish the run and then hopefully win more passing opportunities. We didn't win a ton of passing opportunities, but when we did it really changed the game.”
Salamanca, the smallest Class C football school in the section, plays familiar programs in C South such as Allegany-Limestone and Gowanda/Pine Valley along with perennial ‘C’ power Southwestern, Fredonia, Cassadaga Valley/Falconer/Maple Grove and Chautauqua Lake/Westfield/Brocton.
Bartoszek returns his varsity coaching staff including Dustin Ross (special teams, linebackers), Aaron Hill (defensive coordinator) and Paul Furlong (assistant head coach, offensive and defensive lines).
THE RETURNING starters:
Harley Hoag, senior, 5-11, 170, tight end/defensive back
Cole Hedlund, senior, 5-11, 170, wide receiver/defensive back
Jesse Stahlman, junior, 6-0, 195, running back/linebacker
Tre Turner, senior, 5-9, 240, center/defensive tackle
Kody Shinners, senior, 6-0, 250, line both ways
Lucus Brown, sophomore, 5-11, 160, wide receiver/defensive back
ALSO LETTERING were:
Hayden Hoag, senior, 5-10, 185, quarterback/defensive back
Austin Maybee, senior, 6-0, 175, wide receiver/defensive back
Junie Buffalo, senior, 6-3, 245, line both ways
Shawn Bacelli, senior, 5-9, 195, line both ways
Shawn Pierce, senior, 5-11, 200, offensive line/linebacker
Eion Quigley, senior, 6-0, 215, line both ways
Zaron Tucker, junior, 5-9, 175, fullback/linebacker
THE PLAYERS, by position:
Quarterbacks: Hayden Hoag
Running Backs: Stahlman, Tucker, Joshua Aumun (soph., 5-11, 175), Carmine Pierce (soph., 5-10, 160)
Wide Receivers: Brown, Hedlund, Maybee, Kash Ball (jr., 5-9, 145), Arlen Newark (soph., 5-9, 145), Jason McGraw (jr., 5-9, 155), Israel White (jr., 5-8, 140), Archer Newark (soph., 5-9, 145), Takota Armstrong (jr., 5-9, 145)
Tight Ends: Harley Hoag, Tayoni Galante (soph., 6-0, 175)
Offensive Line: Shinners, Turner, S. Pierce, Buffalo, Bacelli, Quigley, Gabe White (jr., 6-0, 300), Jaxon Tarr (jr., 5-9 195), Arliss Clark (jr., 5-10, 270)
Line: Shinners, Turner, S. Pierce, Buffalo, Quigley, G. White, Tarr, Clark
Linebackers: Stahlman, Brown, Bacelli, Tucker, Aumun, C. Pierce
Defensive Backs: Harley Hoag, Hedlund, Hayden Hoag, Maybee, Ball, Arlen Newark, Archer Newark, McGraw, I. White, Armstrong, Galante
3 — at Springville, 7 p.m.
10 — Southwestern, 7 p.m.
17 — Allegany-Limestone, 7 p.m.
25 — at Cassadaga Valley/Falconer, 1:30 p.m.
30 — Fredonia, 7 p.m.
8 — Bishop Timon, 7 p.m.
15 — at Chautauqua Lake, 7 p.m.
22 — at Gowanda, 7 p.m.