top of page

Salamanca football ambitions spurred on by strong 7-on-7 showing

By SPENCER BATES Special to the Press

While for some it might be relatively early to start thinking about the return of high school sports, members of the Salamanca varsity football team are already getting reps under their belt.

A group of Warriors players found themselves on the podium as they took home third place in the 2023 NYSHSFCA 7v7 Championship in Cortland. Over 20 teams participated in the tournament and it is something that coach Chad Bartoszek understands is a big deal for his program after only losing by three points to the defending Class B state champion, Maine-Endwell.

Members of the Salamanca High School football listen for instruction from head coach Chad Bartoszek during a 7-on-7 game in the NYSHSFCA 7v7 Championship last month in Cortland. Salamanca finished third after losing to defending Class B state champion Maine-Endwell.

“We showed out,” he said. “We had a really good group. We ended up losing to Maine-Endwell in the semifinals and Maine-Endwell were state champions last year … so the team that went really put a lot together. I think it was a new experience for us, the first time we’ve done it, and I would like to continue to do it because it was a good event for us and the kids really pushed themselves both physically and mentally.”

Bartoszek praised his players and the team building that the tournament provided for the players, but he made sure to note that his players have to remember that the season isn’t played 7-on-7, “we have to be ready to hit things too.”

Early in life, Bartoszek added, some players are exposed to the 7-on-7 form of play, going back to childhood and the grass-stained jeans you got from diving for a pass in the front yard. While those jeans have now been replaced by Warrior uniforms and pads, there is something his players can take away from those days.

“In 7-on-7 you do what the kids do growing up in the backyard,” he said. “It’s all the fun stuff about football and I keep telling [the team] the better we get at it, the more likely we are to use it in a game. If we are efficient with it during 7-on-7 we can expect to use more of it in season.”

While the 7-on-7 experience will offer more options on the field, the personnel that the Warrior will have at their disposal will determine how much of that experience will be used. Ultimately, he knows it is a necessity to keep the sport enjoyable and 7-on-7 play can provide that.

“It’s hard, at times, to keep football fun,” Bartoszek said. “These kids just want to play. So we’re trying to keep things fun for them at the youth level and by the time they get up to high school, the 7-on-7 stuff is a part of your scheme and it should be a part of who your program is and what your identity is.”

The next step for Bartoszek’s side is preparing for the upcoming season. First off, he made it clear that some things need to remain the same year after year if the football culture he is trying to foster is to permeate into the next generation.

“Our normal (program), what we have kind of put into place over the last few years, we are keeping consistent,” he said. “We have, just like every other program, we have weight training, we have some 7-on-7 stuff and we are just having open practices throughout the week and those open practices are meant to acclimate our younger players to our system so that they are ready to go come Aug. 19.”

He said that these open practices are simply to bring together the players and get them “in sync” as well as slowly ease in any possible changes into the system. However, Bartoszek is understanding that now is the time for his players to refresh during their time off from school but definitely aware of how close the hard work really is.

“It’s a way to get ahead a bit,” he said. “But … it’s all open. We are trying to get more and more bodies there but not taking so much of their summer because we know once the fall hits we demand a lot and we want to make sure they enjoy their time off. But it’s getting time, we are getting pretty close here.”

This is something Bartoszek’s players know. As he goes into his fifth year at the helm of his alma mater, he prides his program’s success on the familiarity he has with his players and that his players have with him and his staff.

“We now have kids who started in seventh-grade and they’re going into their 10th or 11th-grade year,” he said. “They’ve seen it, they’ve heard everything, they know our coaching style and it’s really refreshing to go through some summer work and the kids just pick it right back up.”

The Warriors have a majority of their team returning, only losing a handful of players on both sides of the ball after last season. And with the same players comes the same expectations. If his side are to get to play a sectional final in Highmark Stadium, or as Bartoszek refers to it, “The Ralph,” his team will need “to perform at a championship level, in practice and in play.”

“We finally got the home playoff win last year … and really I want the Salamanca community and these kids to experience going to The Ralph and playing in a sectional final,” he said.” There’s no hiding that, it’s what every kid in western New York dreams of and we just haven’t been there in a while.”

A Section 6 Class C semifinal loss to Lackawanna prevented these goals from being achieved last season. However, instead of allowing it to dampen their moods and goals headed into the new campaign, the Warriors are using it to learn.

“At the first team meeting we just showed the last two plays and quite frankly they didn’t go great,” he said with a chuckle. “It was just a chance to show them how close we were. We were right there, so (that film) is something that they need to see and we need to learn from and that our expectations should be set at that semifinal, final level. Why not?”

While his ambitions are aimed towards the top, he knows there is a case to be made for cautious optimism.

“You don’t want to set the bar to a certain level every year but our expectations have been to get there so I’m hopeful this could be it,” he said.

Despite the desire he has for this all to come to fruition, the desire at the core of Salamanca football is growth.

“The priority for myself, personally, and our coaching staff is that we are providing opportunity and producing a successful program top to bottom,” Bartoszek said. “I believe we are there and now we are trying to get to that championship level.”

Now, after back-to-back years with a home playoff game, the Warriors want to win it all. They will get their first test of the season at home with a non-league matchup against Franklinville-Ellicottville on Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. Their first league matchup will come on Sept. 8 at Chautauqua Lake at 7 p.m.


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
bottom of page