Mustangs getting set to defend C North title

By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 28 August 2022 at 9:22 am

Photo by Cheryl Wertman – Veteran members of Medina’s squad include, in front, Chris Johnson, Xavier King, Roosevelt Mitchell, Dominic Larabee and Ollie Wilson. In back are Cayden Lilleby, Noah Skinner, Brody Fry, Cole Callard and Kaedon Cleveland. Missing from the photo is Josh Wilson.

Coming off a record setting championship season which included an 11-1 record and a first ever trip to the state playoffs, Medina is prepping to begin defense of its Class C North Division title looking to fill a number of key skill position vacancies caused by graduation.

A large veteran line which includes senior tackle Chris Johnson (6-0, 255), junior tackle Roosevelt Mitchell (6-4, 320), senior guard Ollie Wilson (6-3, 205) and junior guard Xavier King (6-2, 195) anchors the offense. Junior Sawyer Kingsbury (6-2, 195) looks to take over the center position with the graduation of Colvin Stalker as Josh Wilson shifts from guard to tight end with the graduation of Joe Cecchini.

“We’ve got pretty good size up front,” said Coach Eric Valley. “Last year we were a quick strike team on offense but this year we will be looking to be more methodical and pound the ball. We are just looking to keep moving the chains on offense and play good defense.”

Seniors Noah Skinner who rushed for 740 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Dominic Larabee and sophomore Brody Fry provide veteran experience at the running back spots where Iverson Poole (576 yards rushing and 10 TDs) is the biggest loss to graduation.

Three players – senior Aiden Pitts and juniors Julian Woodworth and Noah Cudzillo – are vying for the key starting quarterback position vacated by the graduation of record setting signalcaller Xander Payne (1,636 yards passing and 22 touchdowns).

Senior Cayden Lilleby, juniors Kaedon Cleveland and Logan Gray, sophomore Brayden McEwen-Miller and freshman Jerrell Nealy look to help fill out the receiver spots which lost Jarin Rhim (494 yards receiving and 7 TDs) and Greg Thompson (499 yards receiving and 6 TDs and 559 yards rushing and 5 TDs) to graduation.

Sophomore Cole Callard also returns to handle the placekicking duties.

Juniors Xavier Bloom and Will Prest look to help out at the key linebacking spots on defense along with Skinner, Fry and McEwen-Miller. Up front the Mustangs return plenty of experience in Johnson, Mitchell and  Larabee along with Josh and Ollie Wilson. Lilleby and Cleveland provide some experience in the secondary. Secondary losses to graduation included Hayden Woodroe, Poole, Rhim, Thompson and Payne.

“On defense our front four is back and we have good experience at linebacker but our secondary is young,” said Valley. “We had a great year last year but this is a new season and we’re just going to take it one game at a time.”

The Mustangs open defense of their C North Division title by hosting Newfane at 7 p.m. Friday.

Medina’s other home games will be against Cleveland Hill on Sept. 16, Springville on Oct. 7 and Akron on Oct. 13. The road contests will be at Roy-Hart/Barker/Lyndonville on Sept. 9, Tonawanda on Sept. 23, East Aurora on Sept. 30 and Albion on Oct. 21.