Oatkan Knights begin new era with
This truism is too apropos not to use: There are changes afoot in Le Roy.
The departure of legendary Head Coach Brian Moran after 26 years at the helm is well documented. This year, longtime assistant Brian Herdlein takes over the program. Gone also is Anthony Paladino, after 30 years. The new defensive coordinator is Peter Greene, who served for eight years as an assistant with the JV squad. And despite 16 returning seniors, Le Roy is turning to new talent at skilled positions, including QB, where junior Josh Laurie takes over for Mike McMullen.
The big surprise, though, comes with blue fingernail polish and a ponytail. Mary Purdy will become the school's first girl to play varsity football.
Purdy decided to forego soccer this year and so she was encouraged by football staff and players to try out for kicker.
"We're not trying ot make history," Herdlein said. "It was a situation where she was playing a different sport before. She didn't want to do that this year and she approached us about playing football and kicking for us. We had her come out. We had her kicking some footballs. The first day I show up, I see her kicking 35-yard field goals no problem. So of course, for me, I think that's a weapon, so to me I don't look at her differently than anything. She comes out, she does everything everyone one else is doing on the field. She'll go through the drills with us and then she'll do her kicking."
Purdy would also like to downplay any talk of her blazing a new trail. She's more focused on helping her team win and having fun playing football.
"I was hoping no one would draw so much attention to it," Purdy said. "I'm just happy to present my skill set wherever it's needed, but I guess it's kind of cool to be the first female to come through the area and play football."
Mostly, Herdlein is preaching continuity. He's not concentrating on the changes, just on the same values that has made Oatkan Knight football successful for decades: hard work, discipline and preparation.
"For me, it's just a title change," Herdlein said. "The rest of the staff has been here a long time. They know what they're doing. The kids know all of us. It's not that big of a change."
Herdlein will continue as offensive coordinator, a role he held in recent years under Moran, so the schemes won't change much.
"I'm not reinventing the wheel," Herdlein said. "They've been very successful here, so it's not like I'm the person who is going to come in and say, 'you haven't done it right before.' "
Laurie does bring a different skill set to the offense than McMullen. Herdlein described him as more mobile, so look for him to scramble more, run more.
"He's a kid who's very mature," Herdlein said. "He plays a lot of travel baseball on an elite team, so he's had that pressure situation before. He's ready to take the job."
Offensive linemen Ben Carmichael and Dave Englerth say they like what they see so far out of their new coach and their teammates.
"I'm very excited," Carmichael said. "I think we have a good team. I think we have a lot of new guys coming up who have a lot of talent. Our line especially is stacked and I think we're going to do very well this year."
Herdlein has put an additional emphasis on conditioning, which Englerth said will payoff for the team.
"I think we can make it to sectionals," Englerth said. "I think we have the ability."
With only 29 players, Herdlein said conditioning is critical for his team.
"We need to make sure the guys we have can last for four quarters of a football game," Herdlein said.
Among the players he looking to provide leadership are Nick Egling and Ryan Boyce.
Egling moves into the fullback position and Boyce, the son of a former Knight's QB, David Boyce, will be a receiver, free safety and long snapper.
"Nick will definitely be a force for us this year," Herdlein said. "We're going to be giving him the ball a lot. And Ryan has been around since he was a small boy. He knows the program. He is definitely going to step into a leadership role."
A year of changes, yes, but the expectations remain the same: Work hard, be tough, play to win.
LEROY VARSITY FOOTBALL CAPTAINS 2015
Dave Englerth, Nick Egeling, Josh Laurie, Reed Kacur
FOOTBALL COACHES 2015
Head Coach / Offensive Coordinator - Brian Herdlein
Brad Dietsch - Defensive Coordinator
Pete Greene - Defensive Coordinator
Jim Bonacquisti - Special Teams
2015 LeRoy Oatkan Knights Varsity Football
1: Nick Shepard, Ryan Blackmon, Dom Filio, Josh Laurie, Justin Green, Justin DiFalco, Dave Englerth.
Row 2: Luke Hogle, Jesse Lytle, Tom Dalberth, Jason Doemling, Mike Leubner, Konnor McCowen, Anthony Natrigo.
Row 3: Nate Montoya, Gaven Cassidy, Eli Flansburg, Benny Piazza, Quinn Calcote, Mary Purdy.
Row 4: Cody Resch, Alex Hahn, David Privitera, Ryan Boyce, Ben Carmichael, Reed Kacur, Nick Egeling, Brandon Hodge.