By Sam Wilson
While the playbook might not look identical to last season’s, Jason Marsh hopes to provide as smooth a transition as possible for his Franklinville/Ellicottville football players in his first season as the Titans’ head coach.
Marsh and the players know each other from his three seasons as an F/E assistant, starting as a volunteer in 2016. And he has plenty of experience as a head coach, having served nine years in the top job at Salamanca. Now, he hopes to continue the success the Titans experienced under Chad Bartoszek, who went 41-16 in six years (37-12 since the merger) before leaving Ellicottville for his hometown of Salamanca this year.
“Even the Franklinville guys, I only see them generally during football season and whatnot but I definitely know who they are and we have a pretty good relationship,” Marsh said of connecting with his players. “It’s good that I’m not a completely new face to them. I think that’s a pretty easy transition then.”
For Marsh, returning to the head coaching job meant picking up some of the less-glamorous responsibilities he had forgotten.
“A lot of the clerical stuff, getting back into doing all that stuff again, getting busses and doing all the ordering of equipment,” Marsh said his new head coaching duties. “That’s the main difference. The Xs and Os is generally the easy part, it’s all those other little things that become tedious.”
F/E took a slight step back last year after four consecutive trips to New Era Field for the Section 6 championship game. The Titans went 5-4, but still finished the season in a different sort of championship setting, winning the Chuck Funke Memorial Bowl Class C final, 27-14 over Portville.
Now F/E returns 15 letterwinners, including 11 starters and nine seniors. Marsh hopes that varsity experience and a taste of winning will lead to improvement this season.
“We were really young on the offensive line last year and then also last year we had an injury to a key player in (senior running back/linebacker) Jake Peters,” Marsh said of 2018. “When we lost him, it set us back a little bit. But we had guys that stepped up and we knew on the offensive line that we had to play better. So that’s where — and I really think as the season wore on — we started to play a lot better on the offensive line.”
F/E also saw development from Logan Frank, who returns at quarterback and defensive back as a junior.
“We were starting a sophomore quarterback last year and his progress from Week 1 to the end of the season was tremendous,” Marsh said. “Logan Frank, you could watch him grow each week and his confidence from beginning to end was a world of difference.
“The thing I think we’ll see more of is last year, Logan was doing a lot of learning, trying to pick up everything and I think it was a process of having the game slow down for him. Now I think he can build on that and that game is now going to be played at a different pace for him. Now he can work on being the leader out there. I think he has great leadership qualities and I think we’re going to see that out of a lot of our guys.
Three other rising juniors — Clayton Rowland, Wyatt Chudy and Brett Kryniski — saw starting action as sophomores.
“A lot of guys, they were new to varsity football and their heads were kind of spinning,” Marsh noted. “They were concentrating so much on their assignments and where they needed to be and whatnot. Now I think we’ll see those leadership skills come out in everybody.”
Marsh said the team “definitely has a similar feel” to three years ago, when players like Brock Blecha, Griffin Chudy and Sam Erickson returned as second-year starters as juniors. But despite a high number of returning starters and letterwinners, the Titans aren’t a finished product.
“There’s still going to be quite a bit of teaching because we are changing a few things with what we do. But it’s nice to have (experience). I think it increases our confidence. Our confidence should be at a different level because we do have experience. They’ve been in battles, they’ve been tested a little bit. They played in tight games. So I think for us that’s the biggest thing. We ended the season with a fair amount of confidence and at least a little bit of savvy.”
Aside from the head coaching change, F/E’s staff remains essentially intact, with Chris Mendell running the defense and Mark Blecha the special teams. Bill Delity joined the staff coaching offensive line and will help with the junior varsity along with Scott Palmatier and Reed Mitrowski and Harley Butler helps the lines as a volunteer.
In league play, F/E returns to Class D after a year at the ‘C’ level, playing against Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Randolph, Salamanca and defending state champion Clymer/Sherman Panama. Maple Grove was slated to return to the league, but will instead play eight-man football this season.
Even with the merger, which has led to five winning seasons including four trips to the Section 6 Class D finals, Franklinville/Ellicottville has issues with depth. Marsh listed 31 players on his initial varsity roster.
“I really think our numbers, I would like to see them higher,” Marsh acknowledged. “Probably most coaches do, but it’s definitely a concern. Our numbers are always a concern. I think this year we’re going to be in good shape, but we’re definitely concerned what our numbers are going to be like on down the road.”
This season should also give Marsh a chance to coach his son, Lucas, a sophomore, for the first time in varsity football. The son is listed at quarterback (behind Frank) and defensive back.
“He’ll be a guy that’s probably going to bounce around between JV and (varsity),” Jason Marsh said. “We don’t know if he can handle being the backup quarterback, hopefully we’ll never have to find out, so he’ll probably spend a lot of time playing JV quarterback. He’s gotta get reps and Logan’s a stud. There’s just not a place for (Lucas). Logan Frank is a good player and I think we’re going to hear a lot of good things from him this year.”
THE RETURNING starters:
Tyler Clear, sr., 5-10, 160, running back/defensive back
Zack Wolfer, sr., 6-0, 205, tackle/defensive end
Nick Logel, sr., 6-3, 205, tight end/defensive end
Jordan Grinols, sr., 5-10, 195, running back/defensive back
Jordan Peplinski, sr., 5-8, 190, guard/linebacker
Gabe Huari, sr., 5-11, 170, guard/defensive end
Devin Neamon, sr., 5-9, 175, guard/defensive tackle
Clayton Rowland, jr., 5-11, 165, running back/linebacker
Wyatt Chudy, jr., 6-0, 180, tight end/linebacker
Brett Kryniski, jr., 5-10, 200, center/linebacker
Logan Frank, jr., 6-2, 195, quarterback/defensive back
ALSO LETTERING were:
Nolan Palmatier, sr., 5-8, 135, wide receiver/defensive back
Kameron Ramadhan, sr., 6-1, 220, tackle both ways
Harrison Newark, jr., 6-2, 225, tackle both ways
Matt Peters, jr., 5-8, 170, center/linebacker
THE PLAYERS, by position:
Quarterbacks: L. Frank, Lucas Marsh (soph., 5-9, 140)
Running Backs: Clear, J. Grinols, Rowland, Ryan Dekay (jr., 5-8, 160), Logan Grinols (soph., 5-7, 140), Blake Frank (soph., 5-9, 150)
Ends/Receivers: Logel, Chudy, N. Palmatier, JD Pfeffer (jr., 5-9, 145), Ethan Frank (soph., 5-9, 175), Logan Fuller (sr., 5-10, 160), Shawn Clancy (soph., 5-8, 140)
Guards/Tackles: Peplinski, Huari, Wolfer, Newark, Ramadhan, Caleb Ploetz (soph., 6-1, 210), Lucas Adams (jr., 5-10, 200), Braedyn Palmatier (jr., 5-11, 240), Andrew Boyla (soph., 5-11, 200), Josh Coolidge (soph., 5-9, 190), Everett Leonard (jr., 5-10, 165)
Centers: Kryniski, Peters
Ends: Logel, Wolfer, Huari, Leonard
Guards/Tackles: Neamon, Newark, Ramadhan, Ploetz, Adams, B. Palmatier, Boyla, Coolidge
Linebackers: Rowland, Chudy, Dekay, Kryniski, B. Frank, Peters, Peplinski, E. Frank
Defensive Backs: Clear, J. Grinols, N. Palmatier, L. Grinols, L. Frank, Marsh, Clancy, Pfeffer, Fuller
Kicker: Bryce Butler (jr., 5-10, 145)