The Jamestown Red Raiders come into the 2012 football season with quite a few new faces. And there were quite a few holes to fill from the 2011 starting lineup, such as at running back, where Spencer DeCinque rushed for 1,340 yards and 13 touchdowns and on defense, where Ben Whitney led the team in tackles with 108.
One hole coach Tom Langworthy wasn't expecting to fill was at starting quarterback because he had a returnee. But on Monday he learned that senior signal-caller Dennis Drew was quitting the team for personal reasons.
''You hate to lose any player,'' Langworthy said. ''Dennis is a great kid and he's done a lot of great things for our program and I have a lot of respect for him. Our program took a lot of great strides when he was our quarterback. I'm going to focus on all the good things he did.''
Last season in eight games, Drew completed 74 of 126 passes for 958 yards and eight touchdowns.
In Drew's place when the Red Raiders open the season against Kenmore West at 7 p.m. at Strider Field will be newcomer Jake Sisson, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior.
The former Southwestern midget football and middle school player moved to Bentonville, Ark., when he was in the ninth grade, but he moved back to the area this month.
''Jake will start on Friday night,'' Langworthy said. ''He's had a good camp and worked really hard and we have confidence in him.''
He added, ''I think he knows the system well. He's been able to learn quickly and he's been able to learn from some of his teammates. He's worked really hard at it and I think he's got a good handle on the offense.''
Last season, Sisson was the backup junior varsity quarterback and the third-string varsity QB for Bentonville High School, which lost in the state Class 7A championship game. Sisson ran one drive with the varsity during the season.
Junior Josh Colwell, up from the junior varsity, will be the Red Raiders' backup quarterback and sophomore Zach Panebianco will be No. 3. Both are also receivers.
So despite the bombshell of losing his returning starting quarterback, Langworthy's fifth preseason as the Jamestown head coach has been otherwise uneventful.
''Every year I think we improve on how we coach things and little nuances in how we're trying to do on offense and special teams,'' he said. ''I think we've had a good camp. We've been able to coach a lot of things and our players have responded well. Now we're into game week and all that hard work is about to come to fruition because we're having a game.''
The Red Raiders' last game was a loss to eventual state champion Orchard Park in the Section 6 Class AA championship game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. It was Jamestown's first game at ''The Ralph'' in 11 years. And it obviously has had a positive affect on the program.
''We have more players out his year and I wonder if interest has been renewed based on winning,'' Langworthy said. ''Winning always helps everything.''
But he noted, ''This is a new year. I know the guys this year who were on the team last year, they want to get back to Ralph Wilson Stadium. I don't think it ever gets old, walking out that tunnel. It definitely gave us momentum and confidence. But this is a new group and we have a lot of players on the field that did not play at Ralph Wilson Stadium last year and those kids want to get there.''
See JHS, Page B2
Taking over the top running back duties will be junior Da'Quan Hollingsworth.
''Da'Quan Hollingsworth has done a ton of work in the offseason and has exceeded our expectations thus far,'' Langworthy said. ''He's got a good attitude and he's really matured a lot from last year, so we're really depending on him for some big things this year running the football.''
Senior Tristan Holland will be the No. 2 running back followed by senior Justin Capuano. Both didn't play football last year.
When the Red Raiders aren't running the ball, they expect success passing it.
''I think out receiving corps is very solid,'' Langworthy said of seniors Conner Anderson and Watson, junior Colwell, and sophomores Panebianco and Steve Carlson and Ben Larson. ''So we have a young group of receivers, but we also have experience in there, too.''
The line is solid with tackles, John Czech and Jakis Blake, center Tom Fortune and guards Zack Eklum and Joe Mistretta.
Senior Cortland Haines is looked to for big things on the line, but not for a while.
''Cortland will not be playing in Friday, he's having arthroscopic surgery right now,'' Langworthy said on Tuesday afternoon. ''We're hoping he'll get back by week three at Lancaster.''
In addition to being the leading rushing last season, DeCinque led the team extra points with 37 and was 7 for 7 on field goals. Panebianco will be the place kicker this season.
Friday's opponent is familiar for Jamestown. In the semifinals of the Section 6 Class AA playoffs, the Red Raider went to Kenmore West, the No. 1 seed from Class AA North, and defeated the Blue Devils, 33-7.
''I'm sure their coaches are telling them that we beat them up at their field and we took away an opportunity for them to play at Ralph Wilson Stadium for the first time,'' Langworthy said. ''So they're going come down here and try to spoil our opener.''
That wasn't an easy task last season as Jamestown was 5-0 at Strider Field.
''We take a lot of pride in playing at Strider Field and a lot of pride in protecting our home field and our home turf,'' Langworthy said.