By Aaron Mansfield
The Depew Wildcats are 15-4 the past two years. It's an impressive mark, to be sure -- but it's not one with which they're content. That's because all four of those losses have come against their cross-town rival, Alden.
"Obviously, we take one game at a time, but there’s a little asterisk next to week five," second-year Depew head coach Brian Wilson said of his team's regular-season showdown with Alden. "We’re ready to go."
I was at Alden for the morning practice and didn't make it to Depew in time to catch up with any Wildcats players, but Wilson was still in the locker room. He took the time to chat with The News about his expectations for the 2013 season.
Those expectations are high particularly for the offense, and with good reason. Depew returns all its skill-position players, with senior quarterback Anthony Buono, junior running back Rodney Turner, senior wide outs Cody Penner and Derrick Sekuterski (both 6-foot-2) and senior tight end Nick Yelich.
"Offensively, we feel pretty good about things," Wilson said. "We’re pretty loaded at the skill positions, I think, going in."
Wilson also has good reason to be confident in his big men clearing the way. At 6-foot-7, 315 pounds, senior Mike Lamb is a behemoth up front, and he is joined by fellow seniors Dylan Grant and Steve Kasprzak.
The Wildcats had running and lifting sessions every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 8 a.m. this summer. They also did two team camps, one in June and one in July, and ran one passing league.
"We had pretty good opportunities to get together and do some stuff," Wilson said.
He feels more acclimated with the entire program heading into his second year.
"There’s a comfort level, a familiarity with what we’re doing," Wilson said. "We made some changes last year, my first year as head coach, so they came back and instead of scrambling, there was a little bit of a comfort level. People lined up where they needed to line up and knew what they were doing a little bit quicker, so that’s promising."
While there is a different vibe for Wilson this year, not much will change with Depew's offense. The 'Cats will run everything from an empty backfield to a three-back wishbone set. After all, that's what worked for their explosive offense last year -- and why mess with success?
"I think they’re excited to get going," Wilson said. "It was a long summer for them … I think they’ve been itching to go. They’ve tasted success over the last couple years and they want to keep going."
Depew's JV team went 8-1 last year, and many of those players are moving up to varsity this season.
"A lot of those kids had a lot of success on the football field the last two years," Wilson said of the new varsity players. "We’re hoping that’s a pretty good formula for success."
The Wildcats have switched conferences this year from Class B East to B South, but the Alden Bulldogs were the only team that switched with them, so the rivalry is intact. Depew and Alden moved because they were the southernmost schools in B East. Olean, Dunkirk, Griffith Institute, Eden, East Aurora/Holland and Pioneer -- all expected to be competitive teams -- are also in B South.
Sure, they're all expected to be competitive, but there is that asterisk on WIlson's calendar next to Sept. 27 against Alden.
"Not only is it a rivalry, it’s a league game," Wilson said. "And our goal every year is to win our league, and if we can’t beat them, we can’t win the league. We have our work cut out for us."
Wilson was asked what will surprise people the most about his team this season.
"We scored some points last year and were pretty dynamic offensively," he said. "If we can keep doing that -- I don’t like surprises, so I don’t like to answer that question -- hopefully our success is a surprise to everybody."
The Wildcats will open their season with a game at Olean Saturday, Sept. 7.
* * *
Follow reporter Aaron Mansfield on Twitter @aaroncmansfield.