Utica, N.ZY. - The Proctor Raiders have been right on the doorstep over the past few seasons, and this year appear as though they could break the door down.
They've won at least four games each of the past four seasons, but have only gotten past the first round once in those years.
The Raiders finished 4-4 last year and were bounced in the first round thanks to a 20-14 loss to Liverpool.
They return 28 players from that team, including 20 out of 22 players who started. With that experience and the motivation from last year's tight sectional loss, the team said they are ready to take Proctor football to a new level.
"Last year we knew what we were doing, but coming into this year [the experience] helps us way more," said senior RB/S Tasean Cooper. "We're actually ready for everything that’s going to come to us and the games we're going to play."
This season marks head coach Steve Strife's fifth year at the helm. He said that he is pleased with what he's seeing so far from his squad.
With a 20-15 record as the head man thus far, Strife said that he feels good heading into the season with the roster that he has.
"I think the best part about it is that they’ve been there so they know what it takes," said Strife. "We’re way ahead of where we have ever been offensively, defensively [at this point]. We’re putting in week three and four stuff now because the kids are already there, they’re where they should be."
The players also say that something seems different with the team this year heading into training camp.
"It’s very exciting that we don’t really have to teach anything new because everybody remembers all the plays, all the techniques," added senior OL//DE Evan Gohringer. "Everybody has a lot of experience, so all we can do now is improve and get better and better every day."
In addition to all the returners, the Raiders also have some new players coming into the fold that will prove to be big contributors throughout the coming season.
One of those arrivals is senior LB/TE Isiah Czarnecki, who transferred to Proctor from Notre Dame following last season. Czarnecki, a Class C East first team all-star last year, will enter his third season as a starter for his team on the gridiron.
"It’s very exciting," said Czarnecki. "They have a lot of returning players who are very strong and solid in the core, so I couldn’t be happier to come and join this group of kids that they have right now."
He agreed that both the experience returning for Proctor, along with the experience he brings as a newcomer, will be major factors in what his new team hopes will be a successful season.
"It’s always going to be key because knowing where you have to be on the field is one of the biggest things," he said. "[It's easier when] each person just has to do their own job, so having people that know what they’re doing is always crucial."
The Raiders kick off the year with a non-conference contest against Whitesboro on Saturday, September 7 at home.