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Slowly but surely, the Bulldogs are moving forward

Former Buffalo Bill and Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly received the ESPYS’ Award for Perseverance last month.

If the ESPYS gave out an award for Patience, coach Pat Veltri and the Kenmore East football program would certainly be nominated.

After a disastrous 2015 season in which the Bulldogs not only went winless but struggled each week to have enough players to play games, Veltri and his team have slowly been turning the program around.

In week eight of 2016, the Bulldogs won their first game of Veltri’s tenure and improved to two wins (2-7, 0-6 Class A North) last season.

While the changes aren’t happening as fast everyone would like, the program is still heading in the right direction.

“We’re getting there,” Veltri said. “In college and the pros, you can turn a program around in a couple of years. You go out and recruit the guys you want. In High School football, you’re trying to change the culture. So, it takes closer to five years.”

The time and dedication of Veltri and his staff is something that hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“It’s working because Veltri is putting so much time and effort into this,” senior captain WR/DB Nick Coburn said, “and all of the players are putting in their time and pushing each other to get better.”

Kenmore East’s Achilles Heel in 2017 was once again depth as they had trouble finishing games last year.

“We lost some games that we had at the beginning,” Coburn said. “It was mental because we had the lead and then were got scored on. But it was also (physical) because we were exhausted. That’s something we need to work on.”

It appears that change is around the corner as the Bulldogs have been enjoying success at the JV level the past couple of years. Last season, the JV squad went 7-1, losing their only game on a missed two-point conversion.

Kenmore East hopes that those winning ways can make its way to the varsity squad.

“The talent level and guys who are willing to work hard,” junior WR/DB Kyle Marsha said about why the JV was successful last season. “There aren’t guys who are going around carelessly. They all have been really working hard.”

Veltri is excited to bring some of those players up to Varsity this season.

Among them are Marsha and classmate RB/LB Dominic Ferguson, who were already named captains in late July.

“Marsha played just about every position last year on the JV team,” Veltri said. “When they needed someone to fill in at a spot he filled it. He always puts the team before himself.”

The Bulldogs were given the last two weeks off before the season began, but Ferguson, without any prompting from the coaching staff, got many of the players together during that time to throw the ball around and workout.

“Ferguson rallies the troops and gets guys to our summer workouts,” Veltri said. “He’s a great leader.”

Coburn is the only returning varsity player to be named a captain this year.

Kenmore East is expecting returning senior quarterback Nate Murdie to be stronger in 2018.

“He had a really nice year last year,” Veltri said of Murdie. “At times I think he pushed a little bit to make some plays last year. I think if he can play within himself that’s when he’s at his best.”

The Bulldogs are looking for big things from seniors OL/DL Logan Jonathan, WR/DB Jake Butkowski and WR/DB D’Anzo Young.

The Bulldogs lose many multi-year starters including QB/RB/DB Kahlil O’Neal, WR/DB JaMicheal Henderson and OL/LB Derek Simons to graduation.

Kenmore East knows they’re still not quite where they want to be but they look to take another step in the right direction in 2018.

“It’s about consistency and playing a full game,” Veltri said. “We were in a lot of games last year. If we can have consistency with effort throughout the game, that’s what we’re looking for.”

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