Le Roy Returns to Prominence on the Gridiron

Nate Rider - Batavia Daily News Sports

Le Roy--- after being at the top of the Section 5 mountain for so many years, the storied Le Roy football program has been in a rare position of sorts in recent memory. In what must seem like an eternity for the black and red, the Oatkan Knights have not won a sectional title since 2008.
For most schools, five years would not equate to an extended drought, but for a team that holds the Section 5 record with 14 sectional titles-tied with Caledonia-Mumford--- this has been a bit of uncharted territory.

Last season Le Roy was on the brink of resurgence when it came within 24 minutes of toppling mighty Hornell---winner of four consecutive sectional crowns and three straight state titles--- in the Class C title game before falling 21-7.

Yet now in 2013, Brian Moran's squad appears to be on the precipice of greatness yet again. Led by senior lineman Brandon Van Grol and senior running back Peter Privitera, as well as a talented collection of juniors returning from a season ago---including quarterback Mike McMullen, running backs Tom Kelso and Jon Pierce, wide receiver Ryan McQuillen and lineman Kody Lamkin---the Oatkan Knights have their sights set high for this fall.

"The goal is out there," said Moran of the sectional crown. "But it's not the goal, it's getting ready to play for the goal and I think that's the key, to every day work toward that and getting yourself mentally and physically ready to play."

Following the Class C title in 2008---a season which included a disheartening 38-35 loss to Southwestern in the state quarterfinals---Le Roy finished with a 3-6 record in 2009 and consecutive 3-5 marks in 2010 and 2011. But all of that began to turn around a season ago. With the help of such seniors as Marcus Mistersaro and Dylan Johnson, the young Oatkan Knights were just a dramatic last second loss to Perry away from finishing the regular season undefeated.
Le Roy got by Holley in the quarterfinals and blasted Bath in the semifinals and had the Red Raiders on the ropes up 7-0 at the half before falling in the finals. And it has been those final 24 minutes of 2012 that have stuck with the Oatkan Knights for the past 10 months.

"That's our motto this year, that we were just 24 minutes short," said Kelso.

Entering his 25th season, Moran has compiled an impressive 185-60-2 record, which includes 13 of the program's 14 sectional championships and a Class C New York State title in 1995. Le Roy won three straight Section 5 titles from 2006-08 and 1994-96, as well as seven of nine from 1994-2002.
And now it is this group's turn to show that they belong with those proud and historic teams of years gone by.

"It feels great to bring it back," said Kelso. "Last year we didn't win a sectional title but we definitely showed people that we were back and we were ready to go."

Interestingly enough, Le Roy will open its schedule on Friday at Hartwood Park against the same Hornell team that ended its season a year ago.

"I think that makes for an interesting storyline," said Moran. "Hornell beat us last year, a great football team and a great football program and to open up with them here at home is a great challenge. And, when you think about it, it motivates not only them but everybody. The coaching staff and the community as well."

And though the Red Raiders' record 51-game winning streak came to an end in the state finals last November, these Oatkan Knights know what this game will mean.

"It's a good motivation to try and get the revenge and sow people that they really didn't beat us that b ad," said Van Grol. "It makes you rethink everything you did and it makes you push a little harder and it makes you just remember going home on that long bus ride."

In just eight games, in which he was riddled with injuries toward the end, Privitera was the team's leading rusher with 962 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 133 carries in 2012; Kelso was next with 485 yards on 104 touches with eight scores and Pierce added 225 yards with a 7.5 yards per rush average and three touchdowns as a sophomore.

They will run behind a line that will consist of, among others, Van Grol, big man Anthony Paladino---who transferred back from Notre Dame---and tight end Steve Cappotelli.

"It feels good to be on the team that people actually respect," said Van Grol.

Signal-caller McMullen had his ups and downs in 2012 as he finished 38-of-97 for 655 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions, but his growth under center as a junior will be a key factor in leading the Knights back to where they feel they belong.

"We're all young but we all understand that we have as much experience as any other senior that is out there," said Kelso.

McQuillen returns as McMullen's leading receiver in terms of yards as he had 323 on just 12 catches with six touchdowns last season: Mistersaro led the team with 16 catches.

"As you watch them mature a little bit, the nice thing about this group is that they want to play, they're interested in playing and they get along well," said Moran. "And there's no secrets to anything. If you work hard and you dedicate yourself to being better you get better and this group has done that. That's the nice thing about them, their dedication and the way they practice."

Led by this same group, expect the Le Roy defense to be much improved under longtime defensive coordinator Andrew Paladino.

"They've played hard and they understand the game," said Moran. "And the nice thing about that is when you get kids that have played for you for a couple of years, you watch those kids, they lead by example and that's how you get better."

Linebacker Kelso returns as the leading tackler from a season ago with a total of 75, while McQuillen had 48 and Lamkin was tied for the team lead with three sacks to go with 39 tackles of his own.

The Oatkan Knights outscored their opponents 380-190 in 2012. Though now Le Roy---following months worth of conditioning, weight training and preparation---is simply itching to get onto the gridiron and prove that they again belong in the upper echelon of Section 5 football.
"We're pretty anxious, you can tell every day," said Kelso.

The Oatkan Knights will travel to Bishop Kearney in Week 2, host rival Letchworth in Week 3 and Warsaw in Week 4, play at Class DD sectional winner Avon in Week 5 and host Wellsville in Week 6 before their annual showdown with Route 5 rival Caledonia-Mumford in Caledonia in Week 7 on Oct.18.

"You get to the top by working hard," said Moran. "It's a long season. Week 10 is a long time away and you can't just assume you are going to be there. You've got to work every day. You can't just show up on a Friday or Saturday and play, you have to prepare to play and that's where success comes."

But first things first. Le Roy knows that it will not get anywhere by what it did---or didn't do---in 2012. "that's what you talk about," said Moran. "You understand that tomorrow is a better day and you just have to get better every day because everyone else is working for the same goals too. They're not just going to go out and hand you the trophy. You've got to work for it."

But the bar remains as high as ever for the Oatkan Knights.

"We really feel like we can go a lot farther than just sectionals," said Van Grol. "We want to win sectionals but that is not it. We want to go all the way, we want to win it all."

Knights Excited about 2013 Campaign

2012 sectional finals loss to Hornell motivates this year's Le Roy squad

Chris Hooker - Livingston County News Sports

Le Roy---Want to know how close Le Roy was to a sectional title last season? Drive from Le Roy to Henrietta. Up 7-0 entering the second half, the Knights blew the lead in the final 24 minutes to lose to Hornell 21-7. They certainly haven't forgotten it. And apparently, neither has the LCAA, proving so by scheduling a week one rematch between the two teams Friday night at Hartwood Park, which is sure to be a can't-miss affair if you're a fan of the Knights or Red Raiders.

"If you can't get motivated to go out and play this game, then you can't get motivated for anything," said Le Roy coach Brian Moran. "When you lose to a great football team like we did last year, you want the chance to go out and play them again."

Without a doubt, Moran guided the Knights to a stellar bounce back season, finishing with a record of 8-2, and the sectional title within grasp. Le Roy couldn't hold on to finish, so that's what this year is all about.

But Moran doesn't think his Knights need to redeem themselves after the disappointing loss, but he expects them to build on what they already accomplished.

"I don't think it's redeem ourselves. We had a couple of years where we didn't play for sectional titles. I just thought it was a credit to the football team last year to get themselves to playing a great football team," said Moran. "We hung in there with a great football team last year and I was proud of them. This year, we're a year older and we have some experience coming back so hopefully we'll get ourselves in a situation where we can compete for a sectional title again, and work hard toward that goal."

"Twenty-four minutes" has been the motto so far this season. "Twenty-four minutes" away from becoming champions. "When he say that, '24 minutes', it always gets you fired up," said junior quarterback Mike McMullen. "People who played last year, losing the sectional finals, it was a heartbreaker. We are coming out here and practicing our hardest everyday."

The junior McMullen is expected to have a big year if Le Roy wants to be as good as advertised. Last season, he threw for 655 yards and nine touchdowns.

"At practice, we don't really thing about (the expectations)," said McMullen. "We practice our butts off, but when the season comes, we know that people are looking for us to win."

Le Roy's identity last season, which will continue this year, was their round-and-pound style offense, led by senior running back Peter Privitera. Privitera, who rushed for 962 yards (nearly seven yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns, was injured for the sectional final game. He is looking for that shot against Hornell, and to show them what could have happened had he been healthy for the final game.

"That is exactly how I feel," said Privitera. "I missed the last game. Losing was horrible. You never want to lose again. Things happen, but you have to work hard and get it down."

"I think his expectation is that he's ready to go play for a sectional title," said Moran. "He's looking forward to getting into a situation week one where he can go out and play against a great program. We'll have that opportunity Friday."

The standout back also stated that the "24 minute" motto "motivates everyone." "We lost good players last year," he added, "and we just have to get the new ones to work harder to get back to where we were."

This Le Roy team is a young group, despite their skill level and experience. It's a group Moran is certainly glad to have, and a group that seems destined for greatness in Livingston Conference Division-II. But Moran is not ready to look at it that way.

"You can't expect anything in high school," said Moran. "All you can do is come out and work hard. People forget that if you are going to play for a sectional title, it comes down to hard work, dedication and concentration in practice. If they want to come out and do those things, they will put themselves in a position to win."

McMullen and Privitera both admit there is some pressure to perform, and overcoming it will be key to success this year.

"I think that there is some pressure, but you just can't think about it," said McMullen. "When you go out and play, you have to play your hardest." Privitera agreed. "I think there is a lot of pressure," he said. "People are always guessing who is going to win, who is going to lose. It's just who wants it more."

For junior linebacker Tom Kelso, the pressure comes down to not finishing the season on a disappointing note for the second year in a row.

"Twenty-four minutes short of winning a sectional title, it's something you work all year for," he said, "and to have lost it at the end is just a heartbreaker. Nobody liked to lose that Hornell game and it would really be tough to lose this year (in the opener) to them."

Le Roy can't wait to get out and open their season at home, but the team knows the work will need to come all year, not just on opening night.

"I think we are improving on everything this year," said McMullen. "Last year was a great season, but there is a lot of stuff we can do better this season. At practice, we go 110 percent everyday."

Kelso also knows there are things that need to be done to make this season a success. "There's always room for improvement," he said. "Nobody's perfect, you've just got to keep working everyday. You've got to improve everyday. That's how you get better."

For Moran, he just expects his team to keep the eye on the prize, and not to forget those final 24 minutes.

"Your goal every year is to play for a sectional title," said Moran. "You forget it doesn't come easy, and the things you have to remember and stay focused on is hard work and dedication. If you don't do those things all the way through the season, you won't be able to be in a situation where you play for a sectional title."


Head Coach Brian Moran

Andrew Paladino
Defensive Coordinator
Brian Herdlein
Offensive Coordinator
Brad Dietsch
Line Coach
Jim Bonacquisti
Special Teams Coach

2013 LeRoy Oatkan Knights Varsity Football

Row 1 (front) - Chandler Winling, Tom Wood, Matt Privitera, Tom Kelso, Luke Mortimer, Tyler Prinz. Row 2 - Peter Privitera, Jake Henry, Eric Egeling, Mike Shepard, Josh Janiszewski, Aaron Lyons, Jake McAvoy, Dalton Seeley. Row 3 - Jon Pierce, Doug McClurg, Mike McMullen, Clint Nickens, Kyle Hobart, Anthony Paladino, Frank Conte. Row 4 (rear) - Zach Fitzsimmons, Kody Lamkin, Conrado Caballero, Brandon VanGrol, Jason Gorton, Nick Egeling, Steve Cappotelli, Brian Hodges. Not pictured: Ryan McQuillen (Team photo by Cardinal Sports Imaging)