2002: Warriors Reload as Players Look to Carve Own Niche

Considering the players lost to graduation in June, can this fallÞs edition of the Warriors have anywhere near the success they did in 2001?

That, of course, remains to be seen. The Warriors earned a berth in the Class C New York State semifinals behind a group of senior offensive and defensive standouts including Dustin Ross, Cameron Haines, Derrick Murphy, Aaron DeBoy and Matt Quattrone. Each was a Big 30 All-Star selection and received a bevy of other honors. Ross, in particular, collected Player of the Year awards at various levels.

Duplicating that kind of a finish, even with 13 lettermen returning, seems a tall order for Salamanca.

ItÞs also irrelevant right now, said Salamanca Head Coach Rich Morton.

"I don't think it would be fair to put that kind of pressure on young kids who are coming in behind other kids who were very successful," Morton said.

In replacing the players lost, especially in the backfield, development is the key word.

"You just have to develop new players in those positions and hope to get the most out of them," Morton said.

"YouÞve got (Mike) Liberatore, you've got Jordan Earley who may not be as big as those kids who were there but is still a good athlete."

Liberatore, a senior, was a member of last year's "Four Horsemen" backfield. He rolled up 628 all-purpose yards and scored eight touchdowns, seven on the ground.

The 6-foot-1-inch, 230-pound fullback also plays linebacker on defense. During the end of summer powerlifting sessions, when the players' maximum efforts were recorded, Liberatore bench-pressed 300 pounds, squat-lifted 430 pounds and dead-lifted 500 pounds.

Others who could see time in the backfield are senior Tommie Hogan and juniors Zack Tucker, Bobby Magiera, and Justin Hostuttler.

"Hostuttler and Magiera saw action last year on the junior varsity team and Jordan Earley was a backup to Murphy," Morton said. "Tommie Hogan's a quick running back, Zack Tucker…I don't think any of our kids have breakaway speed."

"TheyÞre just long, lanky kids and they don't have the same body types as Cameron (Haines) had," Morton said. "He was very agile, very quick."

The two top choices to replace Haines at quarterback have been Matt Schultz, who was a backup last year, and Aaron Hill. Hill who is also listed as an end on offense and as a defensive back, while Schultz is also a defensive back.

The offensive approach will not change from previous years. Morton said people will still see power football from the Warriors, though it will be tailored to fit the players available.

Before last weekendÞs scrimmages with Pioneer, Dansville and Wellsville, Morton had said there were questions about how the players on the field would perform.

"There's only one kid that's proven himself, that he has the ability to do things at this level and that's Mike Liberatore," Morton had said.

Following the scrimmages, Morton had mixed reactions about how his players had done. When they scrimmaged Wellsville in the morning, Morton said, it was "business as usual." The Salamanca defense shut its opponent down.

"When we went down and played on the goal line against Wellsville, we were able to keep them out of the end zone," he said.

The offensive outcome was different. Liberatore ran for a touchdown that was called back because of a penalty.

"We did not move the ball the way we should move the ball," Morton said. "We sputtered a little, had some missed assignments."

Salamanca scrimmaged a much bigger team in Pioneer. Morton said the Warrior defense had trouble handling off-tackle runs, but did well in shutting down runs up the middle. The two teams were pretty even when it came to goal line play, Morton said.

Salamanca was successful against Dansville on both sides of the ball, Morton said. He mentioned that Dansville passed a lot against the Warriors, a welcome offensive attack.

"Those kids need to get used to that," he said. It was good to see that kind of thing.

"We walked away knowing that we have some work to do," Morton said. "From time to time we saw some good line play and had some holes open up."

The Warriors open the season Saturday when they host Gowanda in a non-league game. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

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