Underclassmen-laden Eden Raiders led by juniors
Although Chuck Tilley has dealt with low player numbers in each of his first three seasons at the helm of Eden, he’s been fortunate to have had enough talented and contributing upperclassmen to experience success each of those years.
This season, he’ll see the same abundance of turnover due to graduation, but without the luxury of an incoming senior class that will assume most of the starting spots. But what he will have is a large junior class that has experienced success with the junior varsity and in time, should be able to accomplish the same at this level.
How long that takes may determine just how successful Eden will be in 2012. It will be up to that influx of skilled underclassmen, along with several highly-thought of seniors, to send the Raiders to a potential fourth appearance in the playoffs.
“It’s a small senior class but this group of juniors is athletic and gifted,” said Tilley of his team of 24 players, which includes 16 underclassmen. “I expect that we’ll get better and better every week and as the year goes on.”
“I expect us to be in the playoff hunt and if we can make the playoffs that would be a huge accomplishment for a mostly junior team,” he added.
The most experienced of the juniors will be Alex Smythe, who was one of the team’s top rushers last season in a crowded backfield.
Smythe, who is a powerful back and runs low to the ground with breakaway speed, should also see time at quarterback when Eden goes to its shotgun and wildcat-type packages. He’ll also be a key cog as a solid tackler on the defensive side of the ball.
For a third straight season, Tilley will look to a committee of backs to assume the rushing responsibilities. Among them will be senior tailback Brady Bermingham and junior fullbacks Conor Gallivan and Kyle Wagner. Gallivan will also start at linebacker and Bermingham should be one of the team’s top defensive backs.
“We have about five or six guys that are interchangeable in the backfield but obviously Alex stands out,” Tilley said. “He’s our No. 1 guy.”
The only other players that saw significant time last season were senior Jon Lyndsley, who will be the team’s top tight end and should be a force at linebacker in 2012, and senior quarterback Matt Bialey, who will share time with junior Nick Sarratori this year under center. Bialey, the lefty thrower, will also start at cornerback, and Sarratori at free safety.
Other than that, most of the team will be new to starting roles. Eden lost nearly an entire starting line, which includes three First Team All-Class B South players.
A revamped offensive line will include Devin Shaw, who’s one of the biggest in the group and played a few games on varsity last year, Will Parkin, who at 6-foot-4, 260-pounds, is a welcome addition back to the program, and sophomore Anthony Cummings, who will start at center and defensive end but can also capably play guard and linebacker if needed. Tilley said Cummings is a student of the game.
Tilley is not worried as much about the inexperience up front as he is the depth. He said there are only seven lineman on the roster, so staying healthy up front will be a tremendous key to the season.
That’s nothing new to Eden, which despite its size has put up a remarkable 22-6 record the past three years under Tilley after several very difficult years for the program.
Following a trip to Ralph Wilson Stadium as a finalist in Class C in 2009, Eden has moved into an extremely competitive and deep “B” classification as one of its smallest teams. Despite that, the Raiders have still made the playoffs but experienced a pair of lopsided losses in the first round.
Tilley’s been able to stay so competitive by installing a disciplined work ethic and deception on offense, running mostly a Double-Wing with a tight formation and three backs. After getting a talented but what had been an underachieving team to the Class C finals in his first season, the Raiders have relied heavily on their system to maintain success with the past two seasons’ smaller teams.
This year, only four players who started the season with the varsity last year are slated to return. Still, Tilley has had little to complain about over his tenure with Eden.
“I hope we can effectively play the style of football we’ve played the last three years,” he said. “In that time, I’ve probably only been disappointed in about two games.”
In one of those games, the Raiders lost their first home contest during the Tilley-era, falling 12-7 to Dunkirk in a game he believed his team was the superior team.
They also lost at home to Class B South champion Pioneer later in the 2011 regular season and again on the road in the playoffs. Tilley was not happy with his team’s resolve in the second half of the blowout playoff loss.
Eden will get its 2012 campaign underway at home against East Aurora on Saturday, Sept. 1.
Eden at a Glance
Chuck Tilley (4th season)
Overall: 6-3, Class B South: 3-2, finished second of six teams in division; Postseason (sixth seed in playoffs): lost to Pioneer 42-0 in Class B quarterfinals; defeated Lafayette 43-6 in consolation game.
League All-Stars Lost
Mitch Eck (OL/DL), Tyler Baker (OL/DL), Brian Agle (OL/DL), Mark Fiorella (LB), Mitch Dobson (RB/DB), Rick Krause (RB/DB), Ryan John (TE/LB/K), Mike Sarratori (RB/DB), Zach Wisniewski (FB/LB), Jake Wisniewski (OL/DL), Jason Kryszak (OL), Gavin Hunter (OL), Matt Carlacci (OL).
The past two seasons, Eden has overcame a lack of numbers and graduation hits to make the playoffs. This may take the Raiders best effort yet to do it again.
Sept. 2 at Medina W 34-20
Sept. 10 vs Dunkirk L 12-7
Sept. 17 vs Gowanda W 39-8
Sept. 24 at Olean W 13-7
Oct. 1 vs Pioneer L 17-0
Oct. 7 at East Aurora W 48-7
Oct. 15 vs Springville W 40-6
Oct. 21 at Pioneer L 42-0
Oct. 27 vs Lafayette W 43-6
Sat., Sept. 1 vs East Aurora 2 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 7 at Springville 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 14 at Gowanda 7:30 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 21 at Dunkirk 2 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 29 vs Olean 2 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 5 at Pioneer 7 p.m.
Sat., Oct. 13 vs Southwestern 2 p.m.