Can the Dogs prove doubters wrong?
What do you do when the numbers and the critics project a difficult season ahead?
Easy. The same thing you would do if predictions were positive. You try your best. And that’s exactly what the Hamburg Bulldogs Football team will be doing this fall.
Head coach Jeff Tripp knows full well that the odds are stacked against his boys and he understands why outside voices are predicting them to finish last in Section VI Class A-1.
They only went 1-7 last year and they are bringing up kids from a winless (0-8) JV squad.
But Tripp has the advantage of something that people outside the team circle does not have. He knows the heart of his young men and can see traits that transcend the black and white of numbers and stats.
“I’ve already shared some of the preseason rankings with them as motivation,” Tripp said. “And I understand. You go by last years record and project.”
Tripp explained that things weren’t as dire as their record might indicate. They had a young offensive line which made it tough for kids in skilled positions to score in clutch moments. Now with a year under their belts, the returning players on the line, combined with vets and the addition of some standout JV linemen should, according to Tripp, transform their line into one of their strengths.
The little things behind the scenes has Tripp believing they can beat the odds and put together a better season than what most expect.
“I think the important thing is that we believe in ourselves and we see the talent that we do have,” Tripp said. “I really think we’ll have three strong running backs this year, possibly four. Obviously what we’re looking to do is run the ball and control the line of scrimmage. I think in high school football that can still breed success. Ultimately I think we’re a more talented team than last year. What we don’t know is how will we match up in a tough division like ours?”
Leading the way for the Bulldogs this season will be veterans Nick Hafner (tailback/free safety) and Spencer Dix (FB/DE).
Other key returnees include Logan Garza who will play center, defensive tackle and defensive end.
Jack Schinzel and John Haberman also return to the line, while Zach Nyhart (slot receiver) and Dom Manzella (wing back) will be key on defense as cornerbacks.
Nate Capasso’s speed will be utilized at wide receiver and safety. Lining up behind Garza will be senior QB Josh Shelley. Shelley lost most of 2017 to injury. So he will have to work even harder to catch up with the pace of varsity game.
Louie Reczek (TE/WR) is new to the team and Geno Bruce will be utilized on both offensive and defensive line.
In A-1 with defending Class A state champs West Seneca West, Jamestown, Niagara-Wheatfield, Kenmore West and Frontier, the Dogs have their work cut out for them.
Because of graduation across the board, Tripp feels the division will be more competitive than most people think. Factor in how they won five games two seasons ago and anything is possible.