The Medina Mustangs didn’t have quite the season they wanted in 2017. Despite an overall record of 5-4 in Class B2, there were high hopes with standout receiver Jalin Cooper. But the chips didn’t fall their way when they needed too.
Back-to-back midseason losses to Newfane and Lackawanna slowed down an impressive 2-0 start that included a win at Burgard in week one. A late season loss to Albion eliminated the Mustangs from the Class B playoff picture.
“We struggled with some depth issues,” head coach Eric Valley said. “We had a very talented team but we had some health issues and things of that nature.” Medina went 1-1 in the Chuck Funke Bowl, losing out to Olean in their final game of the season.
Already merged with Lyndonville High-School, Medina picked up more help in 2018 with the merger of Barker High-School. “We were looking at about 22 kids coming out this season, Barker is a pretty big lift as there are six kids coming over to help us out.” Last season Barker was aligned with Roy-Hart.
Valley says there are 28 kids in camp this week and he thinks that all of them can contribute to this team in some way. “If we can keep them healthy we could really have a great season.”
Returning to the Mustangs is Connolly Cup hopeful Izaiah Rhim, the senior quarterback who is in his fourth season on varsity. William Braswell (RB), Justice Hughes (FB/MLB) and Brian Fry (FS/SS) are the other key players returning to Medina.
Rickie Pitts (WR/CB) and Blaire Prest (G/LB) are players Valley is looking to for production.
Up from JV capable of having an immediate impact are Tyler Chinn (WR/DB), Colby Petrie (RB/DB), Bobby Geiger (RB/LB) and Jacob Golding (RB/LB).
“Izaiah is the only kid during my time here that ever saw snaps at quarterback his freshman year. He’s an exceptionally talented kid that moves well and has great arm strength,” Valley said. “We have some work to do with our receivers to develop some chemistry with Izaiah.”
Medina loses one of the regions top athletes in Jalin Cooper. A big part of the offense, Cooper was also a standout basketball player and track star. He has since graduated and headed to Toledo, Ohio to start his college career. The Rockets play in the MAC West division and host the University of Buffalo this season. Cooper had minor knee surgery over the summer and will be red-shirted.
Eric Gross, the Medina wrestling coach has rejoined the coaching staff as well as former player Jake Cortis who just graduated from Brockport where he played football.
“Right now we’re practicing six days a week until the season starts. We open up against Depew, here so we’re excited about that, always a good game, they have always been a tough opponent to play against,” Valley said.
Medina has three returning starters on the offensive line which should be a strength and also a comfort to Rhim. Valley expects Braswell to have a big year at running back. Hughes is a full back and a very good blocker. “Justice is just a good football player. He played a lot of right tackle for us and started out on the defensive line and end position but it became pretty clear that he’s a really good middle linebacker. He’ll anchor the defense for us this year. Along with Fry who is out in the secondary and very athletic.”
Pitts earned the starting cornerback slot late last season and Valley says could be another nice target for Rhim.
With the addition of Barker there is reason for optimism inside the Medina camp. “Ideally, I’d like to be at 35 guys but the 28 that are here, I am very pleased with the quality of payers we have,” Valley stated.
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