There’s a new sheriff in town in Chautauqua Lake.
After 23 seasons, 221 wins, nine sectional championships and two state titles (in just football) at Maple Grove, Curt Fischer has found a new home this season taking over as the head coach at neighboring Chautauqua Lake, who will be merged with Westfield this season.
“I’m very excited,” said Fischer, who is Section VI’s fourth-winningest football coach. “Sometimes change is great. These kids are buying in completely. I’ve had an awesome time meeting new kids and trying to build that trust and love.”
Fischer’s son, Zach, transferred to Chautauqua Lake back in late January. He got a head start on meeting some of his football teammates as he was able to play on the Thunderbirds’ basketball team for the remainder of the season.
Now the father-son duo along with the rest of the Chautauqua Lake/Westfield football team have been preparing for the 2018 football season.
In the short time Fischer has spent with his new team, the coach has been very impressed.
Coach Fischer learned a lot about his team when he took some Thunderbird players to Hamilton College’s Gridiron Champions Camp in late July.
“I think the week at camp built a lot of belief in them,” Curt said. “I was surprised at how much they could learn in just three days. They did a great job.”
The players also quickly grew close to one another at the camp.
“At first, everyone stayed in their own room,” Zach said. “Now everybody is close. We’re developing a good brotherhood.”
It’s a brotherhood that coach Fischer expects to produce for the Thunderbirds this season.
Senior Kyler Majka and junior Zach Martin are competing for the starting quarterback position.
Fischer is looking for big things from junior RB Ryan Jafarjian and senior LB Blane Thomas.
The line will be led by 6′ 5″, 280-pound sophomore Andrew Baribeau.
“I saw some film on him from last year and he’s a dominator for sure,” coach Fischer said of Baribeau. “He can move and he can play.”
Fischer brings his entire coaching staff over from Maple Grove. In addition, Frank Quagliana from Westfield and Sam Aults from the previous Chautauqua Lake regime will be on the staff. Rich Mortan, who was the head coach of the Thunderbirds in 2017, will take over the modified team.
The Chautauqua Lake community is not unfamiliar with Fischer as he was the head coach when Maple Grove and Chautauqua Lake combined from 2013-2015.
Fischer made it clear he wishes Maple Grove the best, now led by one of his former players in Justin Haft.
“I wish Maple Grove all the best,” coach Fischer said. “I’ve been with those kids since they were nine years old. Coach Haft is going to do a great job.”
Last season, the Thunderbirds went 4-5 (2-3 Class D).
Chautauqua Lake suffers a big loss in QB/SS Devin Pope, who will be playing basketball at SUNY Geneseo this winter.
With the addition of Westfield, who was combined with Fredonia and Brocton last year, the program will compete in Class C this year.
Even with all the changes he’s made this offseason, Fischer’s expectations for his football team haven’t changed.
“I never set my goals low,” coach Fischer said. “That’s just the way I am. I hear all the time, ‘it’s going to take a couple years’, but I don’t have the patience for that. I want these kids to be at the top and experience the Stadium. Whether we get there or not we’re not going to set our goal any lower than that.”
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