The 2017 Newfane Panthers did something that hadn’t been done in program history in over twenty years: make the postseason. The Panthers (4-1 league, 6-2 overall) were runner up in the B3 division and made the playoffs as the 5-seed in Class B. A narrow 18-15 loss to Maryvale in the opening round was the first playoff game for Newfane football in twenty-four years.
7th year head coach Chuck Nagel will need to replace a slew of offensive and defensive weapons lost to graduation, starting with the explosive duo of quarterback Brandon Gross and running back Julian Nixon.
Gross accumulated 1739 yards (1181 rushing, 558 passing) of offense and 21 touchdowns (15 rush, 6 pass) last season. Nixon, who also represented Newfane at the NYS Wrestling Championships in February, rushed for 1058 yards and 12 touchdowns in his senior campaign. Nixon also led the team with 80 tackles and 5 sacks. Other key players lost to graduation are Connor Hill, Ryan Haner (44 tackles, 2 sacks), Chad Dunbar (4 offensive TD’s, 66 tackles, 4.5 sacks), and Zach Brown, a team leader who was unable to play last fall due to injury.
Senior Shayne Harrington will replace Gross at quarterback running the Panthers dynamic option attack. Harrington, a two-way player a season ago, rushed for 275 yards and 1 TD and caught for 129 receiving yards and 2 TD’s. On defense, he recorded 50 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 fumble recovery. Ty Casinelli, Nagel’s third year starting center, will be back to anchor the offensive line. Defensively, Casinelli recorded 37 tackles and 3 sacks in 2017. Guard Josh Wisniewski (36 tackles, 1 sack) is a team leader and a staple on the line.
“He’ll be our leader on both sides of the ball” said Coach Nagel on his new quarterback. “So I think we’ve got some leadership from the quarterback…I know we do from the quarterback, and definitely on our offensive line. And those guys play defense too.”
Junior Jaden Heers is an up-and-coming athlete that may end up with the bulk of the workload out of the backfield and at linebacker.
“Last year we noticed he had pretty tremendous speed” Nagel said about Heers. “He’s got a lot of potential. He’s got to develop some running back skills. He ran the ball for us in everything we’ve done this summer. He’s getting better.”
In addition to Heers, a committee of returning players all recorded carries a season ago. Look for seniors Zach Aniolowski, Dylan Finch, and Joe Snyder to all see potential ball-carrying roles.
On the offensive line, look for Trent Stymus, Matt Walker, Chance Caccamise, and Jason Jones to complete that unit with Casinelli and Wisniewski.
Senior receiver Reese Casinelli (122 rec. yards, 2 TD’s, 32 tackles, 3 INT) should be the Panthers top pass catching threat. Nagel gave praise to his senior receiver saying “He might be the hardest working kid on the team. He leads by example and has some tremendous athleticism.”
Many of the same offensive players should see time defensively as well. Aniolowski, Snyder, and Zach Short all return after recording double digit tackles. Other names to look out for are Tyler Cottrell (DB/WR), Josh Everett (RB/DB), Jordan Sherman (DT), Nik Voelker (RB/LB), and Garrett Srock (RB/S).
Going into the fall, after a milestone season for Panthers football, Nagel stated “Now that we know we can compete, that we have an identity on offense, we have it on defense, our goal is to win the league. Hopefully we’ll be playing for a sectional championship…that’s our goal.”
Newfane opens the fall season at Fredonia on Friday, August 31st in a B3 division matchup. The realigned B3 division includes Alden, Burgard, Dunkirk, Eden, Fredonia, Newfane, and Tonawanda.
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