Don’t Sleep on the Spartans
WILLIAMSVILLE NORTH SPARTANS
2016 RECORD (4-5)
East Amherst- Heading into the 2017 football season many football observers around WNY are expecting Williamsville North to experience some growing pains. After losing notable seniors like Connor Kelly, Anthony Maniscalso and the Huang brothers Andrew and Jason it would be easy to see that happening.
However, the mere suggestion that the Spartans lost some of their identity rose many eyebrows on Wednesday night when I met with returning players and head coach Mike Mammoliti.
Returning RB Marquel Wells (’17) believes this year’s squad is more talented than last year’s team that lost in the Class AA Quarter-Finals. “Our JV players might not have the experience of those other guys we lost but they are very hungry.” Wells knows how good they are as he has had a front row seat watching the JV team go undefeated for the past three seasons. “This is a brotherhood, we all get along good, workouts, man, we had a lot of guys commit to doing the things in the offseason, our weight room was full man.”
Sharing some of the load out of the backfield will be Ivan Ghemmegne a four-year varsity player has shown that he has some of the same explosiveness as Wells. The 1-2 punch out of the backfield of Wells and Ghemmegne has this crop excited about what they can accomplish the season.
“I’m ready to go, I’ve been healed, 100% healed and ready to help this team.” Ghemmegne is referring to a 2015 leg injury he suffered in a preseason scrimmage. That kept him out for the year but his hard work and determination helped him pull through and he was able to play in that very first game on the new field at North last September.
Coach Mammoliti isn’t going to get too far ahead of himself but he is confident that this could be a competitive team this fall. “You can’t take anything for granted, there’s a lot of behind the scenes things that go on that you need to do to win” Mammoliti said. “I’m pleased with the work they put in over the summer. We have a nice mix of vets and JV players. We definitely will miss a guy like Connor (Kelly) he brings a physicality and a mindset that is essential to winning. Some guys will need to step up there is no question about it but we feel we have those individuals ready to do that.”
The Spartans had all winter, spring and summer to reflect on how the 2016 campaign ended. Will North had a 19-13 halftime lead out in Orchard Park on that rainy Friday evening only to watch the Quakers rip the victory away.
Wells finished that game with 100 yards on 13 carries and had an 85-yard kickoff return but the sting of defeat was still lingering in the back of his mind.
QB Joe Nusall came in last season as a sophomore and picked up valuable experience. He did a good job commanding the offense in his limited time. He had early success in the game out at OP throwing two touchdowns versus a seasoned defense in front of a tough crowd. I expect him to grow and feed off the strong running game.
North will have a very big test when they open up against Hutch-Tech at home September 1st. “We are only looking at Tech right now” Mammoliti said when asked about how difficult the schedule “There’s a saying around here, worry about the next one”
Defensively the squad has returning linebackers Vinnie Catanzaro and Scott Becht and picked up a defensive end in Dean Gallagher who transferred from Lancaster.
Junior NT Dennis Arkad-Yev is one of those young guys from the JV squad looking to make an impact. “I’m working hard and hoping to get in there and help the team in any way I can” Arkad-Yev said.
“That’s what I’m talking about, we have a lot of young guys, new guys that are ready to step up and want to get after it and they are very athletic too” Wells added. “We feel we are as good as anybody.”
After Hutch-Tech, the Spartans will host Williamsville East before taking it on the road for a Week 3 match-up against Niagara Falls. They will then host OP in a rematch of last year’s quarter-final game before heading down to Jamestown. Frontier and Niagara-Wheatfield round out the schedule.
This will be Mammoliti’s 18th season as head coach. He is bringing up Brandon Sanders and Paul Palizay to assist him this year with Ron Luders, Derek Swader and Steve Nappo all returning.