Head coach Dick Diminuco and quarterback Brian Stoldt have been waiting for today, the day fall practice began, since the end of their last game in November. The past two years, their Bulldogs have fallen prey to a dominant Hornell team (the three-time consecutive New York State Class B state champion) at the Far West Regionals – both times in heartbreaking fashion.
So it makes sense, after a hard-fought 21-14 defeat in 2010 and a 20-14 overtime loss last year in a game Alden seemed to have in hand in the fourth quarter, that the coach/QB combo is as driven as ever.
Stoldt said he thinks about last year’s loss to Hornell in Rochester at least 20 times a day.
“We were so close to winning it,” said Stoldt, a junior who started last year as an underclassman. “We’re ready to go. We want to get back there and win it this time.
“It just feels great to get back out here.”
The Bulldogs, who finished 10-1, led Hornell 14-6 with less than two minutes to play. But the Red Raiders scored and converted a two-point conversion with 1:37 remaining, then scored again in overtime.
Alden hit the field today at 9:15 a.m. Diminuco woke up at 4:30 because he was so excited. He said he’s been preparing all week.
“I’m an old guy and I’ve been coaching a long time, and I still remember [last year’s loss to Hornell],” said Diminuco, who has coached for 38 years. “I hope it serves as a focus for the kids. I hope it gives us a bit of incentive.”
Diminuco said he feels solid about his team’s core, but the squad isn’t as deep as it has been the past two years. Nevertheless, the team has a budding superstar in Stoldt.
“If something should ever happen to Brian, knock on wood, we’d have a difficult time,” Diminuco said.
Alden lost star players at wide receiver, offensive line and linebacker. Stoldt said he thinks the team’s defensive front seven, though it’s composed of mostly inexperienced players, will surprise a lot of people.
One thing is for certain: every player who is back from last year hasn’t forgotten about that loss.
“It’s very motivating,” Stoldt said. “We were so close to a state title. This year in the offseason we’ve worked very hard to get back. Our main goal this year is to win the state title. Section VI, it’s going to be a tough league and we’ve got to take it one game at a time.”
Stoldt has joined his teammates in weightlifting this summer, and since the season ended the team’s captains have participated in “captain’s workouts” three to four days a week.
Stoldt and his comrades will officially be back in action Aug. 31 at home against Roy-Hart.
--- Aaron Mansfield