Preview: Senior-laden Salamanca Hopes to Turn Playoff Fortunes

With another senior-laden varsity football squad, Jason Marsh hopes this is the year to end Salamanca’s postseason woes.

Over the last three seasons (two under Marsh), Salamanca posted consecutive 6-1 regular seasons, but lost its first Section 6, Class C playoff game each year.

With 20 returning lettermen, 18 of them seniors, Marsh knows he has a chance for his first playoff win since 2010.

“We’ve had some really great seasons, we’ve won league championships and we’ve bowed out in the first round,” the ninth-year Salamanca head coach said. “That’s not acceptable to us. We know we’ve been a good football team. Our combined record over the past three seasons (19-6) is probably up there in the top of Western New York. But our results haven’t been where they need to be in the playoffs.”

Most recently, the C South runner-up 2013 Warriors (6-2) dropped a home first-round game to Lackawanna, 16-32. Salamanca visits Lackawanna in Week 2, Sept. 12, perhaps looking for vengeance.

But if the 2014 Warriors return to a similar playoff position, Marsh doesn’t plan to harp on the results of previous Salamanca teams.

“That’s part of it, possibly, that pressure,” he said. “We have to realize that if we are fortunate and we get a first-round playoff game, that we have to be loose and that game is like every other game. I think maybe we were a little tight other years and didn’t play up to our capabilities because of that, but I think this group of kids is really motivated to not let that happen to them this year and we expect really great things out of them.”

Marsh (37-34 overall) appears to have to personnel to do it.

The Warriors return six starters — all seniors — at 11 positions, including quarterback Jared Fish and leading rusher Tyler Siperek (621 yards rushing, 169 yards receiving, five total touchdowns).

“You would look to Jared and Tyler and your returning starters as some of your leaders, but we also have some really quality players like Andy Crandall, who missed all year with an injury,” Marsh said. “He was having a fantastic camp last year. He unfortunately broke his leg, but we’re expecting to see big things out of him.

“Jimmie Nye did some fantastic things for us down the stretch last year. Austin Phearsdorf was always our next linebacker in, did everything for us on special teams. A lot of these guys got a lot of minutes, but that whole senior class, we can expect really great things from.”

Along with the six starters, Salamanca returns 14 more lettermen, including 12 seniors.

“We definitely have a lot of returning lettermen and we certainly did lose a lot of seniors,” Marsh said. “We don’t look at it as a rebuilding situation. We look at it as we’re just reloading.

“We have a lot of great athletes returning and maybe some guys that didn’t get all the reps that they wanted last year, but were certainly quality, super players that had ability but just had good seniors in front of them. It’s a shame that some of those kids just had to wait their time, but we had a really good group of seniors last year and we’ve got another good group of seniors coming this year.”

Marsh hopes his experienced backfield helps weather early adjustments by his new starters up front. Particularly, he’s put more trust in his senior quarterback, Fish.

“I think early on we would expect to see some growing pains from our offensive line, because we’re not returning a lot of starters, but having the depth and experience back there with Jared is always a plus,” Marsh said. “He knows the offense like the back of his hand and I got to work with him when he was in J.V.’s and then through his junior year into his senior year. He’s starting to understand what I’m thinking, what we’re trying to do in certain sets and that experience is going to do well for us.”

That could mean an improved passing attack for a traditionally conservative offense.

“I think we’re a pretty balanced football team,” Marsh said. “We might be able to do some things that we couldn’t in the past, given the talent that we have, but where it all goes from here, we’ll see.

“We take what we’re given and we will have the capability of putting the ball in the air if the opportunities present themselves.”

On defense, Marsh likes his talent, but admitted he has more established roles to fill.

“Defensively is where we’re going to be making a lot of replacements,” he said. “But we definitely had a lot of capable guys that didn’t get the time last year, who are definitely going to step up and shine.”

Section 6, Class C South loses 2013 champion Fredonia to Class B, while Falconer joins Cassadaga Valley in a cooperative agreement and Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake jumps up from Class D. Looking to his schedule, Marsh anticipates a competitive league.

“Obviously I think Southwestern’s going to be pretty good,” he said. “They’re well-coached. Some of these cooperative teams, like Falconer and Cassadaga (Valley), have a potential to be very good. They have the personnel to draw from, and I hear a lot about Maple Grove and Chautauqua Lake. It’s a team I don’t know much about, but they have a lot of athletes had a great track record in Class D.”

Marsh is assisted again by Travis Happoldt and junior varsity coach Paul Haley, while Dustin Ross returns to the sidelines as swing coach after two seasons away.

Marsh took 2012 off but still assisted as a volunteer while Paul Furlong ran the team. Marsh said he plans to decide on a year-to-year basis, but “if the good lord permits and we can keep doing what we’re doing, then that’s what we’ll do.”

A decade into his head coaching tenure, even with his impressive group of offensive weapons, Marsh looks poised to continue the traditions of his coaching predecessors.

“I played for coach (George) Whitcher and they had a tremendous amount of success, and even Rich Morton before me had,” he said. “Do we do things differently? Some, but not a lot. But when you think of Salamanca football, you think of guys like George Whitcher and Joe Sanfilippo. Those are the guys who made this program what it is.”

THE RETURNING starters:

Jared Fish, senior, 6-6, 210, quarterback/defensive end

Tyler Siperek, senior, 5-7, 160, running back/safety

Marcus Zaprowski, senior, 5-8, 190, tight end/linebacker

Mitchell Gilbert, senior, 5-8, 190, guard/defensive end

Joshua Dowdy, senior, 5-10, 210, center

Malachi Ficek, senior, 5-10, 270, tackle/defensive tackle

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