Salamanca looks to reload after losing big line
Coming off a 7-2 season, another steady improvement under Chad Bartoszek, the Salamanca football team has plenty of returning experience at some of the most important positions on its roster.
Just not at the literal biggest positions.
After boasting one of the biggest lines, on both sides, in the region the last few years, the Warriors won’t have that same luxury this fall. Salamanca has one returning starter along the offensive line, senior Jaxon Tarr, while the rest from last fall’s campaign graduated, including 2021 Big 30 Lineman of the Year, Kody Shinners.
“The biggest difference is that we have had an identity for three years now and that identity was based off of that (2021-22) senior group,” Bartoszek said ahead of his fourth season as the Warriors’ head coach. “We were very big, very physical. We had a lot of experience. Some of those kids started and played as freshmen. That allowed us to do things offensively and stay in games defensively just because of our size up front. That's going to change a little bit this year. We're bringing back more weapons on the outside and in the backfield, but we're going to have a little less depth up front.”
Eighteen letterwinners from last year’s 7-2 season for the Salamanca football team return this fall for coach Chad Bartoszek. Front row (from left): Jason Mcgraw, Archer Newark, Quinton Jones, Zaron Tucker, Dekkyn Krantz, Arlen Newark, Kash Ball. Back row: Keegan Hardy, Jaxson Ross, Jaxon Tarr, Carmine Hoag, Maddox Isaac, JT Auman, Tayoni Galante, Carson Mohr. Missing from the photo were Gabe White, Junie Buffalo and Jesse Stahlman. - Press photo by Sam Wilson
After reaching the Section 6 Class D championship game in the spring of 2021, the Warriors fared well in the jump to Class C last year, going 5-1 in the South division and 7-1 overall. But a 14-0 home loss to Lackawanna in the first round of the playoffs brought a promising season to an abrupt end.
“The home playoff win would have solidified how we felt,” Bartoszek said. “We could have put it in writing with a home playoff win, we've taken a big step forward. It doesn't diminish what happened last year, going 7-1 in a division that had Fredonia and Southwestern, those teams that eventually won a lot of games in Class C and into the Bs and the Ds. But it was a successful season, just with an unfortunate ending. I don't think we played up to our capabilities in that last game, but Lackawanna brought it. We just happened to have the wrong night at the wrong time.”
Salamanca has its Big 30 All-Star running back/linebacker Jesse Stahlman back for his third year as a feature back, coming off a 1,044-yard, 10-touchdown year.
“We are returning players with talent,” Bartoszek said. “Jesse, the expectations are for him to be — I would say league-wide and section-wide — he should be one of our top players and one of the best running backs/linebackers in the Big 30 this year. He's really talented.”
The Warriors will need a new quarterback after Hayden Hoag’s graduation, with sophomore Maddox Isaac and junior Jaxson Ross competing for snaps in camp. Isaac saw some limited varsity time last fall after an injury to Hoag, but Bartoszek said both prospective QBs have impressed so far.
“Right now Maddox is returning with some experience, Jaxson is back out this year, he's been doing great this summer,” Bartoszek said. “So they've had a healthy competition going on in 7-on-7 and we'll see how it shakes out. Both of them are really good athletes in our school. So it's a good problem to have.”
Stahlman was a first-team league all-star running back. Tarr was a second-team all-star on the D-line, while returning fullback/linebacker Zaron Tucker was an honorable mention.
“In terms of our leadership, that's where we're asking these guys to stand up and take a step forward,” Bartoszek said. “It seems cliché, we need team leaders, but our group that left, some of those linemen, were good leaders for us and they made sure things were run well. One kid who's been working real hard, (tight end/linebacker) Tayoni Galante, he had a huge lacrosse season, he's stepping up, he'll be a two-way starter for us this year. As a sophomore last year he got a lot of playing time, but he's looking the part.”
BARTOSZEK cited Tucker, Tarr and wide receiver/defensive back Jason McGraw as players he expects to lead as seniors, along with the team’s new quarterback.
“Those guys are going to fill in positions, they've got experience, we just need them to step up and take over. That's what we're expecting (when practice starts).”
Bartoszek said his team has “a lot of athletic kids” but noted “that doesn’t equate to wins and losses.” There remain question marks with hitting, blocking and tackling.
“I think we're going to look sharp in practice,” Bartoszek said. “We looked good in 7-on-7s. We've got to hit some people. I want to see how we hit, I want to see how we tackle, I want to see how we perform when you get the pads on. I haven't really worried about that the last couple years. So this year our guys who've had success at the modified level, and JV we've had some good years, this is their chance to step up.”
Salamanca will continue to field a varsity, junior varsity and modified team this year, expecting between 75-80 players for the start of practice last weekend. Bartoszek is assisted on the varsity staff by Paul Furlong, Aaron Hill and Kyle O’Donnell, with Hill coaching defense and Furlong leading special teams and helping both offense and defense. Salamanca opens the season with back-to-back non-league tests, hosting Randolph Sept. 3 and visiting Cleveland Hill Sept. 10.
“I've got a lot of respect for their program and we are going to be up for the challenge, we'll see how it goes,” Bartoszek said of Randolph, who he expects to compete for a state championship. “For our kids it's a great target to have Week 1. It gives us the whole camp to focus on something.”
C South competitors include ‘21 division champion Fredonia and Southwestern, Allegany-Limestone, Chautauqua Lake/Westfield/Brocton and Silver Creek/Forestville.
“We're pretty pumped but we understand that looking back even at last year, a couple of those games could have gone either way,” Bartoszek said. “We pulled out some pretty cool wins last year and we earned them but we were a tipped ball away or a bad snap away from having a couple losses on our hands as well.
“This year we have to maintain the intensity that we played with last year. That kept us in games, we were always playing intensely, we were always playing fast, we were always playing physical. So even when we lacked a couple of our playmaking skills, we were always in games because we were physical."
"We need to match that. If we match that with some skill that we continue to develop, I think we're going to be alright.”
THE RETURNING starters:
Jaxon Tarr, senior, 5-9, 195, offensive line/defensive end
Zaron Tucker, senior, 5-9, 180, fullback/linebacker
Jesse Stahlman, senior, 6-0, 195, running back/linebacker
Tayoni Galante, junior, 6-1, 175, tight end/linebacker
Jason McGraw, senior, 5-11, 175, wide receiver/defensive back
ALSO LETTERING were:
Keegan Hardy, junior, 6-3, 225, offensive line/defensive line
Jaxson Ross, junior, 5-11, 180, quarterback/linebacker
Carmine Hoag , junior, 6-1, 175, wide receiver/defensive back
Maddox Isaac, sophomore, 5-10, 160, quarterback/defensive back
JT Auman, junior, 5-10, 175, running back/defensive back
Carson Mohr, junior, 6-0, 210, offensive line/defensive line
Archer Newark, junior, 5-9, 155, wide receiver/defensive back/kicker
Quinton Jones , senior, 5-9, 170, offensive line/linebacker
Dekkyn Krantz , junior, 5-10, 190, offensive line/defensive line
Arlen Newark, junior, 5-9, 155, wide receiver/defensive back
Kash Ball, senior, 5-9, 165, wide receiver/defensive back
Junie Buffalo, senior, 6-3, 240, offensive line/defensive line
Gabe White, senior, 6-2, 260, offensive line/defensive line
THE PLAYERS, by position:
Quarterbacks: Isaac, Ross
Running Backs: Stahlman, Auman, Tucker, Avery Brown (soph., 5-11, 175)
Ends/Receivers: Hoag, J. McGraw, Arl. Newark, Galante, Arc. Newark, Brandon John (sr., 6-0, 185), Ball
Guards/Tackles: Tarr, Hardy, Cameron McGraw, Krantz, Mohr, Buffalo, White, Jones
Centers: C. McGraw, Tucker
Kickers: Arc. Newark
Ends: Tarr, Jones
Guards/Tackles: Hardy, C. McGraw, Krantz, Mohr, Buffalo, White
Linebackers: Stahlman, Tucker, Brown, John, C. McGraw
Defensive Backs: Hoag, J. McGraw, Arl. Newark, Arc. Newark, Ball, Isaac, Ross, Auman
3 — Randolph, 7 p.m.
10 — at Cleveland Hill, 7 p.m.
16 — Allegany-Limestone, 7 p.m.
23 — at Fredonia, 7 p.m.
30 — at Southwestern, 7 p.m.
7 — Chautauqua Lake, 7 p.m.
14 — Eden, 7 p.m.
21 — Silver Creek, 7 p.m.