Depending on how you look at it, the glass is either half full or half empty for Bartlett entering the 2012 season.
On one hand, the Hawks are loaded on defense with four All-Upstate Eight Valley honorees back to lead a deep and experienced unit. On the flip side, Bartlett is undergoing an overhaul on offense after losing all of its top playmakers from last year’s UEC Valley championship team.
How quickly the offense can put things together and how effectively the defense can carry the Hawks early in the season will go a long way toward determining whether the program will be back in the playoffs for the 12th time in 13 years come late October. As for coach Tom Meaney, count him in the glass-half-full camp.
“We expect to make the playoffs,” Meaney said. “That’s how it is every year.”
Bartlett posted a 7-3 record last fall, with the season ending on a disappointing note as a big fourth-quarter lead slipped away in a loss to Lyons in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs.
The 45 points surrendered by the Hawks in the postseason defeat were the most given up by the team all year, and Bartlett’s defense hopes to return to the form it displayed during the regular season when it held six opponents to 10 or fewer points.
Senior defensive end Chris Kantzavelos (6-foot-4, 255 pounds) committed to Central Michigan over the summer and is back to headline the defense. Another key contributor will be senior middle linebacker Kyle Kirchhoff (5-10, 245), a three-year varsity starter.
Senior cornerback Nick Andreucetti (6-1, 190) and senior free safety Kyle Garcia (6-0, 170) join Kantzavelos and Kirchhoff as the group’s returning all-conference members. Senior cornerback Nick Garcia (5-6, 160) also brings experience to a talented secondary.
Seniors Mitch Reid (6-3, 200), Kevin Krause (6-0, 185), Justin Clement (6-1, 180) and Vince Caruso (6-0, 170) are among the group of players vying for playing time at linebacker, along with juniors Ben Wiley (5-11, 200) and Chris Janssen (6-1, 170).
On offense, some of the biggest question marks exist along the line, where senior tackle George Danek (6-3, 250) ranks as the top returner. Junior Nathan Baer (6-1, 275) and senior Neil O’Connor (6-0, 185) are competing for the starting center job, seniors Ryan Bauers (6-1, 200) and Brian Prohaska (6-0, 225) are in the mix at guard and seniors Phillip Bagley (6-1, 215) and William Neal (5-8, 250) will be in the tackle rotation.
“We’ve got a lot of inexperience on the offensive line, so we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Meaney said.
Senior Steve Hrbacek (6-2, 170) and sophomore Jordan Flint (6-1, 160) spent the summer sharing reps at quarterback. Flint boasts a big arm and significant speed, but Hrbacek’s grasp of the offense makes him a prime candidate to start the year under center as the replacement for A.J. Bilyeu, the 2011 Courier-News Player of the Year who graduated as the program’s all-time passing leader.
There are also big shoes to fill at the other skill positions after the Hawks lost their top receiver and tight end to graduation and top running back to transfer.
Andreucetti will be in the mix at wide receiver along with seniors Justin Blanchett (6-5, 210) and Jacob Yarwood (6-1, 175). Senior running back Aaron Everson (6-0, 200) has impressed during the summer and figures to get the bulk of the team’s carries.
Kantzavelos is one of several players expected to see action on both sides of the ball as he’ll contribute at tight end along with senior Nick Mazzei (6-0, 225), who will also see time at fullback.