WEST VALLEY — Last season, senior lineman Jesse Polluck would stretch in the same spot on the football field, every day of practice. Just about every practice he would come across a rock, that was sticking out of the field. He was tired of sitting and laying on this rock, so one day, he dug it out of the ground.
Out came a stone that weighs about 15 pounds. From that point on, Polluck would lug the rock to every practice and to every game. Since then, the team has not lost a football game, including winning the Class DD Championship.
That rock and a number of key contributors are back for the Eagles, who move up from Class DD to D this year, after winning the Section VI title a year ago. Chad Bartoczek replaces Tim Bergan who coached football for 35 years in the Big 30. Bartoczek was a standout at Salamanca High School, before signing to play for the University at Buffalo. While at UB, Bartoczek made the All-Mid-American Conference team twice, as a Bull.
After he graduated, he was invited to the Indianapolis Colts training camp, two years in a row. This is his first time as a head coach at the high school football level, after spending time as an assistant coach with the Portville and Salamanca programs.
Phalla Musall returns at running back for the Eagles, after rushing for 1333 yards and 14 touchdowns, last year. Musall will have an experienced line, with four seniors and one junior manning the trenches.
The four seniors include Polluck, Cory Tomblin, Fletcher Macomb and Jesse Paprock. Their lone junior starting lineman is Alex Delity. Paprock and Musall are both returning, as reigning first-team divisional all stars.
The most experienced Eagle is four-year starting quarterback Cam Wilson, a senior, who’s coming off a career year, rushing for 479 yards, which was second to Musall. Wilson scored 3 of the teams’ 5 touchdowns. He scored 1 through the air, 1 on the ground and also caught a touchdown pass, off of a reverse-pass. Wilson scored 8 total touchdowns, in 2012.
“I need to be the leader of the team,” Wilson said. “I mean, it was hard my freshman year trying to be a leader, because I was so young. Now that I’m older, I have a big responsibility, but I’m comfortable with that.”
The Eagles will be primarily a running team, according to Bartoszek, with Musall and the running ability of Wilson. Another key player for the Eagles will be Calum Watt, who Bartoszek called a “beast.” Watt will also be a starting linebacker for Ellicottville.
The Eagles also plan to use their running backs in the passing game, along with tight ends Tanner Gregory and Preston Hutchinson. Wings’ Lorenzo Smith and Gabe Ling will see time in the slot and be involved in the passing game.
“My expectations are always high,” Bartoszek said. “I’ve played in the area, went to Salamanca, so I know what it’s like to play at the stadium. It’s every kids dream.
“Our goal is to get to that stadium game and from there, you give yourself a chance. There are some tough teams in this division; it’s a very tough league.”
Bergan, who headed the team last year, and his players agreed that they wanted to move up to Class D this season and compete with the best of the best, among small schools.
Perennial powers Randolph and Maple Grove are the top dogs, in the league. Randolph is coming off a state championship season, in 2012 and won state titles, in 2009 and 2005. Maple Grove won a state championship in 2008.
Maple Grove will combine with Chautauqua Lake, due to declining enrollment. Ellicottville usually combines with West Valley, but there is only one player in the program and he’s playing junior varsity. According to Bartoszek, they will be just the Ellicottville Eagles, this season.
Before practice began, a group had been coming to the high school three days a week, to lift in the weight room and do some field work.
“There is a good group of kids, who worked hard,” added Bartoszek, whose coaching staff includes Mike Telaak, Chris Mendell and Tim Bergan. ”In a small school, that’s the group that’s going to be playing. Those are the kids that came in and busted their butts. They are putting themselves in a position to compete. If you give yourself an opportunity to compete, you can win some games.”
Ellicottville opens up with Cassadaga Valley on Sept. 6.