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Salamanca looks to reload after losing big line

By Sam Wilson Sports Editor

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.”