The Red Dragons finished up another great season in 2017. This year the program is being led by a new head coach but it’s a familiar name in the community. Justin Hanft a former player and assistant coach at Maple Grove takes over for Curt Fischer after he stepped down this past spring.
The Red Dragons posted a 5-1 record in Class D with the lone loss coming to Franklinville/Ellicottville in week three, 26-6. The two would meet up later in the season with the Section VI, Class D championship at stake. The Red Dragons came in as the underdog and left with a 26-15 win. Their season would eventually come to an end, losing 26-14 in the State championship game at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY.
Hanft understands he has big shoes to fill. He played for Fischer and worked on his coaching staff. “Curt set the bar very high,” Hanft said via email. “He’s had a Hall of Fame career and his story is not over yet. As for my team, we know we’ll be under the microscope. We are ok with that. We are just taking one drill, one play and one practice at a time.”
After graduating from Maple Grove in 2004, Hanft went on to play four years of college football. He spent one year at Mount Union and then transferred to Alfred University where he finished up his playing career. It was there when he entered into coaching as a Graduate Assistant.
Hanft is eager to get to work with his new team. The goals remain the same; win a state championship. “We have been on the brink the last few years and our goal is to finish the deal.”
The Red Dragons lost some really good players this past spring. Carter Russo, Nick Fabrizio and Zach Trim graduated and were key contributors.
They will have at least 8-10 players returning that saw meaningful playing time last year. David Brown (OL/DL), Carson Crist (QB/WR/DB), Alex Duncanson (OL/LB), Zach Hendrick (WR/RB/DB), Easton Tanner (QB/RB/WR/DB) and Daren Vaillancourt (TE/WR/LB) will all be counted on for contributions.
Tanner was instrumental in the upset win over the Titans at New Era Field last fall; he is also one of the captains.
Taige Jones (WR/RB), Mason Gowan (OL/DE), Wilfredo Rivera (TE/LB), Jake Tomlinson (TE/OL/DE) and Kyle Trim (OL/DL) are five players Hanft will be looking at to step up and make an impact.
“We are not the biggest team, we need to utilize our assets and abilities to win football games.”
It’s just a four team league now in Class D and despite the change in leadership, history shows that Maple Grove is still the big fish in a small pond.
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