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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

New Era begins in Depew

To say Depew’s 2017 campaign ended on a sour note would be quite an understatement.

After pulling off four-straight wins during the middle-portion of their schedule — including an impressive 44-41 victory over Olean — the Wildcats faltered down the stretch. The team lost its last two games by a combined score of 92-7, leading to changes within the program.

Stepping down as coach was Athletic Director Brian Wilson; coming in to lead the way his long-time assistant coach Mark DiRienzio.

“The last few years we’ve been down a bit as far as our record, but I want to get back to that tradition of ‘we’re the team to beat’,” DiRienzio said. “We have a long tradition of good football, and we want to uphold those standards.”

Not keen on completely reinventing the wheel within the program, DiRienzio’s staff is a mix of returning coaches and new additions from JV. He added that having coaches familiar with the players and program is important to helping guide the team through the staff changeover.

Speaking of the players, that turnover is likely to be the more important than any coaching change happening this year.

With just six returning starters, the Wildcats will have plenty of fresh faces taking the field this season. Luckily, one of those returning faces happens to be senior quarterback Joe Pagano which is sure to soften the blow of the heavy roster transition.

Pagano returns for Depew after throwing for over 1,000 yards last season while being named a Class B-2 First-Team All-Star in 2017. For DiRienzio, his return brings a sense of familiarity to a team with so much change.

“He portrays a certain leadership style,” DiRienzio said of the respect Pagano has of his teammates. “The other kids on the team look at him as a role model even though they may not say that to him.

“He takes the reigns and keeps everything grounded.”

With the opportunity to build the program as he sees fit, DiRienzio plans on building his offense around the strength of his players. That means changes are coming to the play calling and schemes utilized, and that his players, namely Pagano, will have to adapt to the new way of doing things on the field.

“Joe knows he has to keep that standard [of play] from last year,” DiRienzio said. “Our offense is going to change a bit so the numbers passing wise may not be there for him, and he knows that. But if he leads the team in adapting those changes then he’ll be just as successful.”

Though the quarterback is the most important position on the field, Pagano isn’t the only player that the Wildcats are looking to have step up this season.

Two years after winning just two games, the Wildcats once again have playoff aspirations entering the year. In order to achieve that goal, however, it’s going to require some new players to step up and make an impact right away.

One of those players is newcomer fullback Zach Tominich.

At 5’11”, 170lbs, Tominich isn’t the largest player on the field, but he could very well be one of the strongest. Not only is he expected to help in short yardage situations, but Tominich is going to be tasked with keeping his quarterback safe from the opposing pass rush.

Aside from Tominich, players like OT/DE Matt Russo and OT/ILB Dylan Hanizsewski will have to make their presence felt in order to take pressure off of players like WR/ILB Dante DiRienzio and WR Sean Miller, both of whom expect to have big years in 2018.

“We need everyone,” coach DiRienzio said. “If we want success, everyone has to step up.”

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