Hillbillies take the field in Brocton vs. Newfane

The 2018 high school football season brings plenty of change with it regarding teams in Western New York. One change, however, brings familiarity and recognition that our region had been accustomed to for many years.

The Fredonia Hillbillies are back, as the FWB Badgers merger is no more. Now, Fredonia — still combined with Brocton — will be known as the Hillbillies once again in 2018.

Fredonia/Brocton’s first game is tonight, at Brocton High School, against the Newfane Panthers. Fredonia/Brocton is not very familiar with Newfane, as the Hillbillies are in a division — Class B3 — that features Dunkirk as the only common opponent for the Hillbillies from the 2017 season.

“This one is the most difficult one to prepare for,” said Fredonia/Brocton head coach Greg Sherlock. “This game will be learning experience for both of us, because we haven’t seen a lot of them and they haven’t seen a lot of us.”

What Sherlock does know about his opponent is that Newfane is a playoff team from a year ago, the school’s first playoff appearance. Sherlock also knows that Newfane ran an option-based offense last season, which is what the Hillbillies expect to see tonight.

“As an option team, they hide the ball very well,” said Sherlock. “They’re well-coached, disciplined, and if you’re not disciplined, they’ll tear you apart.”

Sherlock also knows that Newfane has run a traditional pro-style offense in the past, as well. He said that Fredonia/Brocton will not be caught off-guard if Newfane uses a pro-style offense, but that it will be an adjustment.

“If they run some other than what they have run, we’ll have to make adjustments,” said Sherlock. “The quickest team to adjust might be the one to come out on top.”

Fredonia/Brocton’s biggest holes to fill coming into the season are at quarterback and running back, after the departure of starting quarterback Reid Tarnowski and running back Brendan Plaister. The Hillbillies will fill those spots tonight with senior Trey Swartz at quarterback and Joell Colon at running back.

“Trey will get the start at quarterback,” said Sherlock. “He was a varsity starter last year at tight end, so he has starting experience at this level, just not at quarterback. … Joell Colon will be the starting running back. He’s in his fourth year on varsity, so we feel comfortable with him. We’ll also rotate Dalton Gardner in for some carries.”Fredonia/Brocton will be without a key starter in Nico Pucci, who is unavailable tonight. He will be replaced by Keith Piper.

“He’ll be a key player to watch,” said Sherlock.

The biggest key to watch for Fredonia/Brocton tonight as a group is how the Hillbillies get off the ball. Sherlock said his team struggled with that in the season opening scrimmage.

A key player for the Hillbillies tonight is tight end Jake Skinner. Sherlock believes his tight end is one of the best in the class.

“I’d be surprised if anyone we play has as good of a tight end as we do with Jake Skinner. He blocks like a lineman and catches like a wide receiver,” said Sherlock.

Sherlock is also confident in the rest of his skill position players.

“I think we have the athletes to compete,” said Sherlock. “We have a good, experienced group. I hope that experience can overcome some of the nerves and the excitement that comes with the first game of the season. Nothing is going to be too big for them.”

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Brocton High School.

Twitter: @bradencarmen