Weekly Feature



2011-07-14 / Sports

West football to open year with Carrier Dome debut

by BRANDON KILIJANSKI
Intern

Former West Seneca West star and current NFL prospect Jeremy Kelley, left, speaks with a group of West players during a break in last Wednesday’s summer conditioning program at West. The Indians will get the opportunity that no team in program history has ever known when they open up the 2011 regular season at Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome — the site of the annual state championship games. Former West Seneca West star and current NFL prospect Jeremy Kelley, left, speaks with a group of West players during a break in last Wednesday’s summer conditioning program at West. The Indians will get the opportunity that no team in program history has ever known when they open up the 2011 regular season at Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome — the site of the annual state championship games. West Seneca West’s 2011 varsity football team will become the first in program history to play a game at Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome when it opens its regular season Friday, Sept. 2, against East Syracuse-Minoa.

West will play East Syracuse Minoa as part of the Carrier Classic, a showcase that every year draws schools from all over the state. Dennis Hartman, who had his jersey retired by West in 2006 and was also a four-year letter-earner in football at Syracuse University, will be West’s honorary captain.

It is an opportunity to play on the same field where NFL stars Donovan McNabb, Dwight Freeney and Marvin Harrison previously battled.

Ken Stoldt, the Section VI football chairman, chose West to represent the AA schools of Section VI in the season’s kickoff weekend event.

But why choose a program with only one win during the past two seasons?

Stoldt complimented the program on its work ethic and the way the players handle themselves both on and off the field.

“When we were always winning, we never ran up the score on anyone — and when we had a ton of injuries and were losing, we never quit on the field,” West varsity head coach Joe Cantafio said.

To say that the entire team is excited for the game would be an understatement. Cantafio has two countdowns running until the game — one on the white board in the weight room at school and one, on his teacher website, which is detailed to the second.

In February, Cantafio put signs up around the school for a team meeting involving a big announcement. He had a Power- Point presentation set up with a photo of the Carrier Dome lit up at night, which led the students on.

“They all went nuts. I don’t know how you can’t be excited,” Cantafio said.

“We knew it was big news, but not that big of news,” said soon-to-be junior Matt Wheelock.

“It’s awesome; it is going to be so much fun. It’s all we have been looking forward to,” added John Lobdell, who will also be a junior.

In preparation for the season — and with an even stronger focus now for the first regular-season game — the team has been working out three times a week during the summer, with 25 to 30 players showing up each day.

Cantafio strongly noted the commitment of the players to show up three times a week. He added that his players find any way to show up, whether it is walking, riding bikes or finding a ride.

“Because of the kids’ commitment, this has become something that is standard. It gives them work ethic and team bonding,” Cantafio said.

Cantafio teaches technique in the weight room, then walks around encouraging players to work their hardest.

“We don’t play slow, and we don’t want to work out slow,” Cantafio said loudly while teaching the technique of the incline bench press.

The players enjoy working out together because of the camaraderie between them, and they said it helps on Friday nights in the fall.

“You know who you can trust on the field because they have been in the weight room with you all summer,” Lobdell said.

“Getting in here as a team goes a long way on the field,” said Wheelock.

The Carrier Dome holds 52,000 people for a football game. There probably will not be that many people there, but for high school students, nerves have taken a back seat to excitement.

“I’m sure there will be nerves before the game. But after the first play, they will go away,” said soon-to-be senior Steve Koepnick.

Return to top