With Trumansburg revitalizing its football program for the 2019 season, there will now be three eight-man football teams – Newfield and Lansing being the other two – from the Finger Lakes Region competing for a Section IV state championship in the eight-man league.
Blue Raiders head coach Julian Munoz said the expectations are difficult to gauge since no one on the coaching staff has experience playing or coaching eight-man football, though he is pleased with what he has witnessed thus far from practices.
“Based on watching the kids move around and play against each other, I’d say we look pretty good,” Munoz said. “I’m very happy with the way they approach practice and the way they approach everything that we install … they pick things up very quickly.”
Other obstacles the team will have to face include the lack of upperclassmen experience on the team – there are only three seniors on the roster – and the implementation and eventual learning curve of new offensive and defensive schemes.
“We’re running a pistol veer, which is an option offense, so we’re running out of the shotgun with a back behind … the quarterback,” he said. “Then, we’re running what we’re calling a … three-three defense. It’s with man-to-man behind it.”
“We chose the pistol veer because we used to run the veer option out of the wishbone, but it wasn’t versatile enough. I didn’t like the way the playbook was worded, so I looked to do something similar, but I wanted to be able to have a little more versatility with it. We can do a lot of different things out of the pistol veer that we couldn’t accomplish out of the wishbone.”
Jeff Stine will begin his first season captaining Newfield’s football team this Friday. Stine and his wife moved to Newfield on July 3 from Texas. Stine has been coaching football for 28 years – 21 one of those years at the high school level and the other six at the collegiate level with Southwestern College – in states like Texas, Hawaii, Missouri and Kansas. Like Munoz, this will be the first time Stine has ever coached eight-man football.
Stine said he is excited to coach all of the talented athletes on the squad, like Jacob Humble, who will be the team’s swiss army knife this year.
“He’s a receiver, running back, [defensive back] … he can do it all,” Stine said. “He’s special.”
“He’s super smart, and … you have to have the intangibles. You have to be able to do certain things and a lot kids can do one or two of those positions, but he’s exceptional. He can do all of them.”
Arthur Hardison will be the starting quarterback for the Trojans this year, and Stine said he is elated with what he can bring to the table as well.
“He is a student of the game,” Stine said. “He is always watching film. He’s wanting to learn. He’s like a coach on the field, so that’s going to pay dividends down the season.”
Stine said he has been very impressed with the work the offensive linemen have put into heading into this season, especially since he is implementing a new offensive scheme in 2019.
“Truly, in 28 years of … installing an offense, this has been the easiest installation in 28 years,” he said. “Six years of college coaching and even when I was a head coach [for] five years in other places, this is the easiest one.”
He said last season the team ran a more run-oriented offense. However, after examining the squad’s personnel, Stine said he wanted to go with a more balanced attack this year with some run-pass option formations.
“I’m new to Newfield,” he said. “I didn’t know anything, but I know that Newfield is pretty good at basketball. [I’m] kind of patterning off of that, truly. Our guys, they like that game and … think about basketball on grass – trying to get our guys in space and do that. … We have kids that can run and our kids are in shape. So I’m super excited to just let them go and blow the top off of it and let it go.”
Eight-man football will not be new territory for the Lansing football team in 2019. Head coach Brett Hotchkiss and company will be entering their second season playing eight-man football with high expectations.
“Guys recognized that we had a pretty good group last year,” Hotchkiss said. “We had a lot of great athletes on the team, and we graduated a fair amount of kids. The kids in the offseason renewed their efforts in the weight room and really looked to move forward upon what we did last season.”
Even though the squad graduated a fair amount of players, the roster this season is still upperclassmen heavy. Of the 22 players on the roster, nine are seniors and five are juniors. Hotchkiss said the team’s running game was sturdy last year with Luke Winslow carrying the majority of the load. Now that Winslow has graduated, Hotchkiss said the team will rely on a mix of running backs in 2019 like senior Brad Lehr, juniors Devin Wright and Jacob Babcock as well as sophomore Eric Khan.
“I think they just have pretty good speed,” Hotchkiss said of the four running backs. “I think they have the ability to break it. If they can get to the edge, which I think that’s going to be one of the keys, if we can go ahead and try to do that moving forward. … Brad Lehr, he’ll be our bigger back in the backfield this year, looking for him to grind out our tougher yards this year.”
On the other side of the ball, Hotchkiss said he expects the defensive linemen to be a reliable force in 2019.
“I think we had pretty good [defensive] end play last year, and we return both of those guys in Brad Lehr and Gabe Santiago as well as in Mason Butler on the interior for us,” he said. “I think up front is hopefully going to be a place where can hang out hat on and get some push to go ahead and keep our linebackers clean.”
Both Trumansburg and Newfield will open their seasons at 7 p.m. on Sept. 20. Trumansburg will face Notre Dame at home and Newfield will tussle against Oxford on the road. Lansing’s season will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 20 when the squad travels to play Thomas A Edison.