Niagara Gazette — “New” has been a popular word around Niagara-Wheatfield football this season.
The Falcons have a first-year head coach in Brent Tylec and open their first full season at the newly remodeled Terry Harvey Field when they host Lewiston-Porter in a non-league game at 2 p.m. today.
Tylec is hoping to start a new era at N-W, where dwindling numbers have pushed a once-great program to the bottom of Class A, having totaled just one win in the past two seasons.
“Winning fixes everything,” Tylec said. “The lack of wins has translated to fewer and fewer kids coming out to play football. We’ve recruited the halls hard this year, and we’re hoping to turn that around.”
The Falcons have an official roster of 34, though Tylec said injuries have already cut that number down.
Helping Tylec turn the program around will be a number of returning seniors who’ve had to learn a new offensive system this season.
Running back Joe Ayers will carry most of the load out of the backfield, while seniors Dan Peletier, Jake Schoelles, Marco Vilardo and Mitch Pittman will man spots along the offensive line. Anchoring the unit will be junior Nate Williams, a second-year starter at center.
“I wouldn’t say the line is one of our top strengths, but we have a lot of returnees,” Tylec said. “We’re lacking size a bit, but we have good athletes.”
Starting at quarterback will be Andrew Doricko, who Tylec coached at the modified level. His top target will be fellow junior Jeremy Mixon, who starts at wide receiver.
“We wanted a two-year starter (at quarterback),” Tylec said. “Andrew is a cerebral quarterback who can read coverages and run my offensive system, which is sometimes a little complicated. He can make a lot of throws.”
The Falcons will show a plethora of looks on offense, Tylec said.
“I adapt to what we have,” he said. “We’ve changed the offense around to fit our players. We won’t be a smashmouth team, but we’ll find a way to move the ball between the tackles.”
Size is less of an issue on defense, where coordinator Sam Pericelli boasts a pair of 300-pound defensive tackles in Bobby Roth and Hawk Robinson. Peletier and hard-hitting senior Caleb Kish will man the ends.
“Caleb is a guy who doesn’t smile much,” Tylec said. “He’s one of our most physical kids, and hopefully he’ll make some quarterbacks pay this year.”
Tylec said the leader of the defense will be senior middle linebacker Jason Vranic, a fixture in Niagara-Wheatfield football through the area’s youth leagues. Mixon will anchor the defensive backs, starting at free safety.
Follow Gazette sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.Follow Gazette sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.