The Kenmore East Bulldogs football team went 1-8 last season, but that one win they had was monumental for the program.
The win over Riverside in week eight of the season, was the program’s first win since the Bulldogs had to forfeit in week one of the 2015 season due to not having enough players.
“As a program it was monumental,” senior Kahlil O’Neil said. “It let the guys know that if we trust the system it will work. We’re going through a rebuilding process. We realized that if we all play to our potential that all the pieces will fall in line.”
The Bulldogs called up several players from the JV for that game who provided a big boost to the program.
“They’re a group of kids that have played together all the way through from modified,” Veltri said. “We’re looking for them to provide some leadership and make plays for us.”
Part of that group coming up is QB Nate Murdie. Murdie is expected to be the starter at QB this season.
“He’s one of those guys whose got it,” Veltri said. “He leads, he has won football games before. The guys believe in him.”
Leadership will come from O’Neil, Jamicheal Henderson and Derek Simons.
The trio is a part a very experienced senior class, where many had to step into starting positions in their sophomore year.
O’Neil started QB in his sophomore and most of his junior year. He moved to running back at the end of the year when Murdie came up. The senior is expected to be a utility player for the Bulldogs in 2017.
Jamicheal Henderson is a strong deep threat for Kenmore East. He led the team in receiving yards and served as a kick returner last year.
Simons is a part of the very experienced offensive line, whose starters will have at least two years of starting on the varsity under their belts. The senior is also an inside linebacker for the Bulldogs. Owen Nadrowski is another three-year varsity starter. He will be a center/guard on offense and a strong pass rusher on defense.
“I wish we had more depth,” Veltri said. “But we feel we’re in pretty good shape. Our starters are a good group of guys that are pretty sound.” Over the offseason, the Bulldogs have been focusing on strengthening and building their players, both current and former.
“When I took over, I had a couple different goals set for the program,” Veltri said. “One of those goals was to stabilize the program get kids into the program and making sure they continue to keep our numbers up. One of the other goals was to build an alumni base. There are a lot of alumni out there. When you go back in the history of the program there has been a lot of success.”
One of the ways Veltri has been trying to that is by getting the Bulldogs their own mobile app, which is used to communicate with players, parents, alumni and fans.
Earlier this month, the program held its first annual Alumni golf tournament.
A small but significant addition to the locker room was a scale. Before and after every practice players must weigh themselves to make sure they are staying hydrated.
“Weigh-in, weigh-out is an old school thing,” Veltri said. “We’re playing iron-man football with 20 some guys, we can’t afford to have anybody go down. It’s a way of keeping the kids accountable.”
The Bulldogs are also excited about the brand-new turf and lights at their home, Sparky Adams Field. The renovations were a part of the district’s Capitol Project.
On Friday September 1st, Kenmore East will have their first game under the lights against Grand Island.
The district is planning on having a rededication ceremony for Coach Adams. The 1977 sectional championship team is being honored at halftime.
In most of the games in the past two years, the Bulldogs have had trouble going head-to-head with their Class A north opponents. In 2017, Veltri hopes that will change for Kenmore East.
“We want to be competitive,” Veltri said. “We haven’t really competed against anybody these last two years. When you’re in the game anything can happen.”