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Clarence looking for Big Things in Burgio’s second year

For the first time, Clarence High School will host the Far West Regionals in football and there’s no question the host Red Devils would like to be on the field in the Class AA championship game. But Clarence also knows Nov. 10 is a long, long ways away.

“You’re talking Double-A football, our goal is to win the game next week,” second-year coach Paul Burgio said. “Everybody in this division has a chance to win it this year.”

Lancaster has dominated Class AA in each of the last two seasons, posting back-to-back undefeated sectional titles. But the big names from that run have graduated, leaving the race wide-open this season.

After finishing 5-4 in his first season, Burgio is banking on that year of experience to go even further in 2018.

“I’ve had a full offseason,” Burgio said. “The big difference is I’ve had the kids since TKs and getting the system I wanted in for the full offseason, it’s been a lot smoother of a transition.”

Leading the way again this season will be senior quarterback Jack Putney, a third-year varsity starter. He threw for 971 yards and eight touchdowns last season and added another 472 yards on the ground.

His favorite target, senior Jon Stevens, is also back. He caught 22 passes last season for 441 yards and four touchdowns as a junior.

“Both are extremely talented players,” Burgio said. “Stevens is probably the strongest kid in the program. Putney is squatting 405, I don’t know of too many quarterbacks that can squat 405. Both are three-sport athletes which we think makes them competitive when we get our hands on them. Those two have been a passing combination since they were in sixth grade.”

Another man to watch this season is sophomore Zach Norton, who Burgio said “might be our best football player.” He burst onto the scene in Clarence’s double-overtime loss to Jamestown in the Class AA quarterfinals last year, running for 120 yards and added 80 more through the air as a freshman. He will see time at slot receiver as well as tailback, the coach said.

Another new weapon is senior Brendan Toole, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound wide receiver out for football on the first time. He’s currently slated to be in the starting lineup.

“He runs great routes,” Burgio said. “He’s best friends with Putney and Stevens and they’ve been begging him for two years.”

He’s one of several newcomers that hopped on board to add to the team’s depth. Clarence entered camp with 56 kids on varsity around 40 on the junior varsity team and 30-35 on modified.

The Red Devils had nine two-way starters last year. It may not be that way this year.

“We’ll have kids that think they’re starters from last year that might not make it because of the competition,” Burgio said. “That’s what makes us better.”

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