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Dunkirk Embraces ‘Underdog’ Mentality

The last four years of Dunkirk Marauders football have been one of the most successful periods in program history.

The 2014 Marauders claimed the teams’ first winning season in 20 years. The 2015 squad qualified for playoffs. The 2016 team made it to the state Class B final four and the 2017 campaign produced the club’s first division championship since 1974.

Yet, for head coach Michael Sarratori and the Marauders, the ‘underdog’ role still remains a tenet of the program’s motivation & mentality.

“Chautauqua County doesn’t get a lot of the press that the Buffalo [area] schools get,” stated Sarratori, who is going into his 14th season as head coach of the Marauders. “We are always thinking that we’ve got something to prove. We have a saying – ‘Why Not?’…Why Not Dunkirk? It’s part of the underdog mentality that we always have. Every year we go into it thinking we’re going to show everyone that we can play with the big dogs.”

The 2017 Marauders finished 7-2 overall (4-1 Class B2), claiming the division title. They earned the No. 3 seed in the Class B playoffs and a win over Albion before falling to eventual champion Cheektowaga in the semifinal.

Sarratori will need to replace departed seniors in quarterback Jazzy Rivera, flanker/cornerback Devaun Farnham-DeJesus, and tackle Jamaal Gaines.

However, with eight returning starters on offense and seven returners on defense, the Marauders should expect to have legitimate league and sectional championship goals.

Junior Tywon Wright, a Class B NYSSWA Second team defensive back returns to lead Dunkirk on both sides of the ball. The Marauders leading tackler in 2017, Wright also earned first team all-league honors and was named the Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore.

NYSSWA honorable mention running back Quantavis Kleckley returns to share the ball-carrying workload with Wright.

Sophomore Phil Messina may ultimately earn the starting quarterback job by week one.

Other key returners include Koty Leeper (TE/DE), Peyton Moreland (FB/LB), Conrad Thomas (TE/DE), and linemen Zac Cooper, Anthony Ortiz, and Owen Fred.

Sarratori expects returning players Angel Reyes, Jose Camacho, Eric Zasucha, and Sebastjian Capuno to take on bigger roles this season.

Key newcomers include Rocky Radcliffe, Earl Stewart, Angel Rios, Devin Land, and Adrien Washington.

Like many other teams in Section VI, Dunkirk finds itself in a new league in 2018. Division B3 now features Burgard, Tonawanda, Newfane, Alden, Eden, Dunkirk, and arch-rival Fredonia.

After Fredonia’s 15-8 upset win over the then-undefeated Marauders in the final week of the 2017 regular season, Coach Sarratori’s squad will look for revenge in the 2018 season finale.

“It’s one of the biggest rivalries around. The kids look forward to it and the communities go crazy,” Sarratori said. “We try not to talk about it and think about it too much because it’s the last game of the year.”

Dunkirk hosts Eden/North Collins to kick off the fall season on Friday, August 31st at 7:30 p.m.

Even with another shot at a league and sectional titles in 2018, Dunkirk football will continue to embrace its underdog role while focusing on the tasks at hand.

Sarratori stated, “our goal is to become a family and trust each other as soon as possible with a desire to improve from week to week so we can compete with the elite teams when it matters.”

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