(From Left to Right, Top to Bottom) Head Coach John Russ breaks down the decision making of a defensive back during HF-L’s football training camp in July, Rhyan Garey at the ready in his right tackle stance, Matt Meacham flings a fade ball towards the corner of the end zone, an unknown receiver goes vertical to reel in a pass, Landon Hammond drags his toes as he snags a ball along the sideline, and Andrew Wanzenried makes his opponent pay as he hauls in a touchdown pass. Photo Credit: Peter Carosa

Honeoye Falls-Lima Cougars Varsity Football Overview – Fall 2022

Head Coach: John Russ (11th Season)

Class: B

Overall Record: 10-1 (including Sectionals)

Playoffs: Lost Sectional Championship to Batavia Blue Devils, 22-14

Key Losses: Mitchell Bulling (OL/DL), Xavier Carbonel (K/P), Ben Carson (WR/DB), Riley Kester (OL/DL), J.T. Killenbec (WR/DB), Charlie Kirby (OL/LB), Zachary Meacham (RB/LB), Hayden Meehan (OL/DL), Brody Young (QB)

Key Returnees: Rhyan Garey (OL/LB), Carson Joint (OL/LB), Nolan Smith (WR/DL)

Fall 2022 Preview

Last Fall, all of Section V was treated to not one, but two tight contests between Class B heavyweights, the Batavia Blue Devils and the Honeoye Falls-Lima Cougars. HF-L won the much-anticipated regular season meeting, however it was Batavia who won the more important championship game. Once again, the Cougars are faced with the task of reloading their team after losing key players to graduation including seven Class B All-Stars: Mitchell Bulling (1st Team Class B All-Star), Xavier Carbonel (2nd Team), Ben Carson (1st Team), Riley Kester (2nd Team), J.T. Killenbec (1st Team), Zachary Meacham (1st Team), and Brody Young (1st Team).

There will be added difficulty for HF-L to reload this season since they have a smaller pool of juniors and seniors than usual. Fortunately for the Cougars’ coaching staff, they had been aware of this for years since this age group has consistently had small numbers since the Pop Warner level. There are nine freshman and sophomores listed on the Cougars’ opening day roster compared with only two a season ago. Luckily for the Cougars there was a rule change last season, which allows an individual to play in a JV game after two days of rest, if they did not play more than ten snaps during a Varsity game.

In a recent interview with the Sentinel’s sports broadcasting team, senior Rhyan Garey discussed the importance of peer mentoring.

“I remember my first practice as a JV pull-up and getting there a half hour early and sitting off to the side,” recalls Garey. “I was so scared, but Reece Joint and some of the other guys came up to me and welcomed me and it meant so much. That helped to make me the player that I am today and I am trying to do that for some of our younger players.”

Garey is one of nine seniors on the team. He is also a member of a small group of players who will be playing their third Varsity football season for HF-L in 16 months. Another member of this club is senior Carson Joint who was an integral part of the Cougars’ first Sectional Championship. When asked about the dedication the players have to the program and trying to uphold the recent tradition of success Joint said, “We all take it very seriously…we are super invested.” This buy-in has made it easier on the coaching staff. Head Coach John Russ explained that the high level of participation during optional summer drills has allowed his staff to spend more time focusing on fine tuning player technique and scrimmaging rather than installing offensive and defensive play calls.

For the third straight season HF-L will be led by a new signal caller. Junior Matt Meacham has the keys to the Cougar offense. With the aforementioned rule regarding JV players, Meacham was able to see limited action in four of HF-L’s regular season games last year.  In his 24 attempts, Meacham completed just under half of his passes and tossed three touchdowns. The ten-play snap count meant that Meacham could only play a series or two and likely impacted his ability to get into a rhythm. Besides participating in optional drills with the Cougars, Meacham attended a football camp in Atlanta, Georgia during the month of June. Senior Nolan Smith loves his accuracy and is impressed with some of the throws that he makes saying, “He’s young, he’s exciting and he’s fun.” Smith was catching passes with Meacham this Spring and was expected to be one of his go-to targets this Fall until he suffered a lower body injury. Smith is currently in the recovery process with an undetermined timetable for return. The coaching staff is cautiously optimistic he will be able to suit up at some point this Fall.

The linebacking corps will once again be the leadership of the defense. In his third year starting as middle linebacker, Carson Joint spoke about the importance of communicating, especially with the younger members of the team, and as a player who is in the middle of every play. Joint said, “It’s everything…I try to say way more than I ever need to just so everybody is on the same page.” He was asked about how on paper the Cougars may not have the same size as some of their opponents. His response was, “It really comes down to how badly we want to win and how well we’ve been coached.” Joint adds. “When you go out there and play with a killer instinct there are not many people who can stop you, no matter how big they are.” The HF-L defense will certainly have their hands full with some of the offenses they will be facing this season.

Fall 2022 Outlook

Another eight-game slate is on tap for the Cougars this Fall with the typical four home and four away games. Class B sees the subtraction of one team, Wilson/Early College (up to Class A), and the addition of two teams, Monroe (down from Class A) and Livonia (up from Class C), meaning that there will be a larger crowd vying for the eight playoff spots. HF-L will play eight of the nine other Class B schools with Livonia being the odd team out. However, the Cougars opened their 2021 season with a 28-8 victory over the rival Bulldogs.

For the first few weeks, the Cougars will face opponents of varying difficulties. This should allow the young team to get comfortable playing as a unit. It’s worth noting that there have not been formal scrimmages for some time now, so the teams only have two weeks of official practices until the first kickoff. The game many media members have circled on their calendars is the Cougars’ October 14th contest against the Batavia Blue Devils. The Blue Devils graduated a handful of starters, including their longtime starting quarterback. They will have their 1,000-yard rusher back and their leading receiver from a year ago will move under center. Besides Batavia, there should be additional competition from Wayne and newcomer Monroe. There has been some hype about the Bishop Kearney Kings, who’s hoping a refresh with new head coach, Zane Howard, is just what the talented program needs.

The Cougars are going to have their work cut out for them if they want to play in their fourth consecutive Sectional Championship game. The team will have to focus on Coach Russ’ annual goal of making the playoffs first, then they can think about winning the title game.

Fall 2022 Schedule

Sept. 2 – vs. Bishop Kearney/Rochester Prep*

Sept. 9 – vs. Wayne* (SENIOR NIGHT)

Sept. 17 – @ Palmyra-Macedon

Sept. 24 – vs. Geneva* (HOMECOMING)

Sept. 30 – @ Newark/Marion

Oct. 8 – @  Monroe

Oct. 14 – vs. Batavia* (YOUTH NIGHT)

Oct. 20 – @ Dansville/Wayland-Cohocton

*Game will be broadcast live by the Sentinel

©2023 Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel

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