RICKY ST. CLAIR
PLATTSBURGH — With 21 players on the roster and 17 eligible for tonight’s game versus Moriah, Plattsburgh High football coach Jerry Defayette is behind the eight ball before one game can be played.
“It’s tough because, in a sense, we don’t have a lot of wiggle room,” Defayette said. “We’ve got to be very strategic with our hitting and tackling drills, and we’ve also got to condition these guys. It’s true ironman football. We’ve really got to make sure that we hit all aspects of conditioning. We’ve got to keep everybody healthy.”
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The Hornets lost quarterback Shawn Courson, who is sitting out his senior year due to concussions received in the past. Courson completed 22-of-59 pass attempts for 382 yards and two touchdowns in 2012.
“He’s decided to kind of take his senior year off and play it safe,” Defayette said. “I spoke to him, and he’s not thrilled about sitting out. But he really doesn’t have a choice.”
Who Defayette does return under center, though, is D’Andre Lemieux.
Lemieux saw time as a signal-caller last fall, finishing with a higher quarterback rating (90.27) than Courson (85.91) with 18 fewer pass attempts.
“D’Andre Lemieux was a sophomore backup last year,” Defayette said. “When Shawn went down in the Saranac game, D’Andre stepped up and called the offense for us. He’s returning, and he’s going to be our quarterback at least to start out. There’s a little bit of a (quarterback) battle at least early on between Lemieux, Henry Sanchez and Seton Catholic student Noah Racette.”
With Sean Shea (78 carries, 411 yards and one touchdowns) and Jonas Miller (99 carriers, 371 yards and two touchdowns) lost to graduation, Defayette is relying on varsity newcomers to carry the workload.
“We have Logan Harvey to help out and make contributions in the backfield,” Defayette said. “We’ve got another sophomore that we brought up in Quran Carroll. He’s real quick, and he’s got pretty good speed. Nathan Hughey, who was a sophomore that we moved up last year toward the end of the season, is a good-sized kid and a pretty good athlete. He’s at tight end, and he also plays on the defensive line. He’s shown us some promise in practice.”
Defayette, whose team is coming off a 1-7 season, said impact players will participate on both sides of the football.
“These guys aren’t going to be coming off the field so Carroll, Hughey and sophomore Hunter Bell will help us out on defense,” Defayette said. “The guys who are looking to carry the ball on offense are going to be key contributors on defense.”
Defayette’s roster includes six seniors, a significant number of juniors and three sophomores.
“As far as senior leadership, we really don’t have any,” Defayette said. “We have Jeff Stiffler, who played for us last year and saw some time on the field, and we have a senior who has come out to play for the very first time — Shane Powers. He’s a regular in the weight room. The rest of the team is pretty inexperienced. We are young, and we are very inexperienced on the varsity level.”
High school football participation numbers have gone down at select schools across the region, but Defayette hopes to use creativeness to spark interest in the program.
“We’ve got to have creativity on the staff’s part to keep the kids motivated, keep them healthy and give them a true experience of high school football,” Defayette said. “We’ve just got to keep them motivated moving forward.
The Hornets open with Moriah under the lights at the Plattsburgh High Athletic Complex tonight. Plattsburgh High dropped it season opener at Linney Field last year 39-12.
“Moriah is just a class-act team, and they’re hard-nosed and hard-hitting,” Defayette said. “We told the kids they’re going to be in for a quite an introduction to varsity football (tonight). Nonetheless, I think the kids are excited about the season starting and improving each week.”
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