Senior running back Jacob Derby shakes off a would-be tackler during practice on Wednesday, March 10th. Photo Credit: Peter Carosa

Honeoye Falls-Lima Cougars Varsity Football Overview – Spring 2021

Head Coach: John Russ (9th Season)
Class: B
2019 Overall Record: 7-3 (including Sectionals)
2019 Playoffs: Lost in Sectional Championship to Livonia Bulldogs, 0-12
Key Losses: Mason Ferrara (RB/LB, Sr.), John Kabes (OL/DT, Sr.), Peter Romig (WR/DB), Chase Rorick (OL/LB), Mitch Slymon (WR/DB, Sr.), Cary VanNewkirk (WR/DE, Sr.) and Turner Wilson (QB, Sr.)
Key Returnees: Mitchell Bulling (OL/DL), Jacob Derby (RB/DB), Colt Green (WR/CB), Reece Joint (QB/WR), Patrick Lustyk (TE/LB), and Mason Wanzenried (WR/DB)
Team Captains: TBD

Spring 2021 Preview

This is my fourth iteration of writing this annual preview and I feel like every year I start off by saying that the previous season was the best under head coach John Russ. Well, the Fall of 2019 was no different, with the Cougars playing in their first Sectional Championship game in school history.

Like all sports teams, professional or amateur, the Cougars are facing an unusual challenge due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the Fall of 2020, HF-L was allowed to conduct football practices without knowing when they would be cleared to play. When the Fall sports season was over and Covid was tightening its grip on the region, there was a question as to whether or not there would be a season at all. Good news came in February when “high risk” Winter sports, such as basketball and wrestling, were given the green light to compete. On March 1, football practices began for the Cougars albeit without the athletes playing basketball (nine players), hockey (two), and wrestling (three).

HF-L will be led by senior quarterback Reece Joint, who had a few starts last season while Turner Wilson was recovering from injury. Joint won the first of his two starts with 159 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT in those two games. He finished the 2019 season with a total of 300 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT thanks to additional playing time during the Homecoming game and some wide receiver gadget pass plays. Coach Russ was glad Joint had the opportunity to get his feet wet last year, noting “anytime you can have success and then have some failure, its just gonna make you a better athlete.” Speaking of athleticism, Reece Joint played soccer this Fall and finished the season with four goals and one assist. Joint competed with the swim team and played for the basketball team this winter. He expects to play baseball later this Spring to become one of Cougars’ first five-sport athletes. Joint is a gunslinger, who is going to live and die by his arm.

Without Wilson and 2019 Offensive Class B Player of the Year, Mason Ferrara, the Cougars will likely move away from the power offensive scheme of the last couple seasons. Instead, HF-L will look to the plethora of skill players Joint will be cycling the ball to. You may remember Jacob Derby, Colt Green, Patrick Lustyk, and Mason Wanzenried from a season ago and you should expect to hear their names often during this season. The Cougars didn’t have to worry about filling the void left by John Kabes thanks to junior Mitchell Bulling, who will anchor the Cougars offensive line. Russ described Bulling as “a very mature, well-spoken kid, but when he steps on the field, he becomes a physical player who does not like to lose.”

The defense will have a slightly different look and HF-L has found players from some unusual places. There are about 7-8 newcomers on the team who typically play other Fall sports but given the unique situation they can play football this Spring. One of them being junior Cole Chiapperino, who plays defense on the HF-L Varsity Boys Soccer team. Coach Russ said, “expect Chiapperino to get playing time at corner, because he’s so smart and has been able to pick up things so quick, such as coverages.” The Cougars have prided themselves on good defense and last season was no exception with HF-L holding opponents to an average of 13.0 points-per-game.

Before discussing expectations for this season, it’s worth noting the Cougars will be without the entirety of all the Cougar Freight Train, the players’ families, and the community at their home games (each athlete will be given two spectator passes per game). Over the last three seasons, HF-L is 9-1 at home with a current eight-game win streak at home. During those eight games, the Cougars have outscored their opponents 237-63. It is without question the support of all these groups have encouraged the Cougars’ recent success. In keeping with our commitment to promoting HF-L Athletics, the Sentinel is pleased to announce we will be broadcasting the entire regular season home schedule of the HF-L football team. These games will air live and be archived on both the Sentinel’s Facebook and YouTube accounts.

Spring 2021 Outlook

The six-game Spring slate has the Cougars playing an equal amount of home and away games (see schedule below for games that will be broadcast live by the Sentinel). Of their six opponents, HF-L played five of them during the 2019 season, including Wayne twice and Palmyra-Macedon in the Sectional Semifinal Playoff game. Two of the teams the Cougars faced in 2019 have switched classes: Livonia moving down to Class C and UPrep moving up to Class A. As a reminder, Section V switched to federation scheduling last season, meaning schools play each other based on classification rather than league alignments. The second half of HF-L’s schedule will likely prove to be more difficult than the first. The Cougars could see Wayne, Pal-Mac, or Geneva in the playoffs. Keep in mind that due to Covid the Sectional playoffs have been reduced from three rounds to two, meaning only the top four teams qualify. Missing from the aforementioned schools is Batavia, who HF-L scrimmaged against last weekend and will certainly be in contention for the Class B Championship. Coach Russ said, “our bar has been set very high, but it starts with Newark this weekend and we will take everything one week at a time.”

Spring 2021 Schedule

Mar. 20 – @ Newark

Mar. 27 – vs. Bishop Kearney/Rochester Prep/Rochester Academy Charter*

Apr. 2 – @ Midlakes

Apr. 8– vs. Wayne*

Apr. 14 – vs. Palmyra Macedon*

Apr. 20 – @ Geneva

*Game will be broadcast live by the Sentinel

©2022 Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel

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