By Chris Wood
Because of the key injuries early on in the season, many thought this year’s Varsity Football team at Jamesville-DeWitt High School would have a lackluster season. But the Red Rams have been shining, instead. With a record of three wins and two losses the Rams are hanging on and are on track to make another run for the Section 3 Class A title this year.
Sophomore quarterback Jack Brotzki, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, thinks the season is going well despite the injuries. “We have faced a lot of problems this season but Coach (Eric Ormond) always says that we have to overcome adversity and that’s what the team plans to do to continue to be successful,” says Brotzki. Coach Ormond thinks that injuries have been a component of the adversity that the team has faced, but he also believes that changing the dynamic of what they can do as a team has been a big setback this season.
Many of the players think that even though they have lost players that were supposed to have huge roles this year, they have improved because of it. “Injuries made our team come together and become stronger because when one person goes down everyone else has to pick it up,” says senior captain, linebacker and tight end Ben Honis. Senior captain and offensive and defensive lineman Matt Thompson believes that “every team encounters injuries; it’s just something we have to work around.” John Werbowksy, senior linebacker and fullback, agrees that the team has found some good from the injuries. “The injuries have forced people like James Jones (senior linebacker and running back) and Nate Shapiro (junior quarterback) to step up to their full potential and be just as good (as people that suffered injuries),” says Werbowsky. Brotzki added that, “I think because of the injuries all of the players are working harder to make up the absences of the injured players.”
One of the most notable injuries was suffered on the first series of the team’s first game. The team was playing Cheektowaga in the Carrier Dome when Brotzki was taken down after he threw a pass. Brotzki ended up tearing his ACL and is out for the season. “We know Brotzki would do anything to be out there with us so it made our team come and play for him,” says Honis. “The football team is a family and we don’t want to see anybody get hurt, especially in Brotzki’s case,” says senior captain, running back and safety Rasheed Baker.
With Brotzki going down, Shapiro has had to come in and lead the Rams’ offense this year. “Nate is just as good of a QB as Jack, he just has a different style and is a different kind of leader,” says Peter Crossett, senior captain, linebacker and offensive lineman. “Nate (Shapiro) is doing a great job running the offense,” said Brotzki who went on to say, “Nate is a solid runner and has the ability to throw the ball when he needs to. “Nate has done an outstanding job this season stepping in to be our quarterback. He showed it Friday night (against East Syracuse-Minoa) with a gutsy drive in which he converted a bunch of third and fourth downs on his own,” says Coach Ormond.
The team ended up winning against Cheektowaga (13-12) after Baker and Honis both had stellar games. But the following week the team traveled out to Indian River. The team lost the game 23-7 after the offense produced less than 100 total yards. “I don’t believe (the lack of) Brotzki had anything to do with our loss to Indian River. Our loss was because of lack of preparation,” says Thompson. “We didn’t know what to expect. We were unsure of our offense and we didn’t adapt quickly enough. Now that we’ve had time, we established ourselves as a ground and pound team and we hadn’t established that yet against Indian River,” says Werbowsky. “Brotzki is a talented player for one, and he would have been hard to replace if he were at any school and was really our only ‘pure’ quarterback that we had,” says Baker.
After the loss the team erupted against Fulton on homecoming and won the game 42-7, controlling all over. The team dominated the run game, with Baker rushing for 185 yards and two touchdowns and Jones rushing for 109 yards and two touchdowns as well. The team credits the adjustments that were made to the offense for their success. “We had a whole new offense out in the summer but when Jack (Brotzki) went down we had to change it completely again and now we are a dominant running team,” says Honis. Like Werbowksy, Thompson agrees that Jones has really become a big component of the offense this year. “We are running better than ever and James Jones has become a huge part of the backfield,” says Thompson. Werbowsky had the same things to say as Honis. “We are now a punch-them-in-the-face offense. Our guys will smash it down the box every play and win with power not speed or passing,” says Werbowsky.
“Everything that we spent time on in the off-season putting together, expecting to have certain tools, all of that time was lost time. So where as most teams are on week five of game season, plus two or three weeks of preseason, we are only half of that. It was like starting from scratch,” says Coach Ormond. “We are more one-dimensional. We installed a bunch of pistol packages that we had to get out of and now we are limited to running pretty much between the tackle box,” he added
Crossett thinks it has been a collective effort to help the offense adjust. “Our defense has been putting the offense in great field positions and going heavy on the right or left sides so Ben (Honis), Matt (Thompson) and I can block for Rasheed (Baker) on one side with help from senior Ryan Adelberg, senior Ryan Pike, junior Matt Schunk and senior Kyle Rumble. Also John Werbowsky does a great job in the backfield lead blocking for Rasheed. No one is selfish and no one cares that Rasheed gets the ball 30 plus times a game,” says Crossett. Baker also talked about how the team has reverted to powerhouse football because everything they do now is run. Coach Ormond also talked about how Baker has taken on a huge load as the team’s primary rusher. “Everybody knows that Rasheed is going to get the ball. My mother in the stands knows that Rasheed (Baker) is going to get the ball, and yet he takes that punishment and it’s a real pounding he takes every game,” says Coach Ormond.
The team then took on Nottingham High School in a rematch of the Section 3 Class A Championship last year. The Rams battled throughout and were able to grind out a 20-6 win over the Bulldogs. Baker ran for 215 yards and had a pair of touchdowns as well as an interception on the defensive side. Shapiro also had a stellar game, having a touchdown pass to Jones that Coach Ormond said, “it couldn’t have been thrown any better.”
The following week the team took on ES-M at home, but was unable to pull out the victory. The final score was 14-7, but the team almost forced overtime as they put together an incredible drive in which they converted many third and fourth downs. One of the most notable plays came on fourth down when the team had their back up against the wall. Shapiro pitched the ball to Jones and then he threw it to a wide open receiver, senior Robert Murphy. But as time winded down the Rams couldn’t make the final push to score and ended up getting stuffed on the one-yard line.
The team takes on Albany Academy this Saturday at home at one o’clock. Come see the team continue their fight to win sectionals!