COXSACKIE — One year ago, Paddy Bailey landed his first head coaching job at Coxsackie-Athens just days before the start of fall practice. A daunting task for anyone, let alone someone just 24 years of age.
His first year as the Indians’ coach didn’t go quite the way he planned in terms of victories, but the team put up some impressive numbers on offense and Bailey expects the growth the team showed to continue into year two of his tenure.
“I feel very comfortable with this team now,” Bailey said. “I have guys that have my back. Last year, they had no reason to trust me because I was brand new to them, but now the trust level is here and now I have that experience of being a head coach, of making the calls and running the program and we’ve added some assistants that I trust a ton. As a whole, I love where I am going into year two and I look forward to growing even more.”
The Indians lost some standout players to graduation, but Bailey is excited with how the team is gelling in preseason practice.
“I think the major thing we’re seeing this year is the maturity of our guys and the attitude,” Bailey said. “My culture is now instilled here. It’s still growing and it’s not fully in, but it’s about 80 percent. This year you’re seeing more of what we want our offense to look like, what we want our defense to look like and everything is coming together nicely this camp.”
Despite the loss of key personnel, the Indians could again light up the scoreboard this year.
“Last year we showed some good signs,” Bailey said. “Last year we rode our star power, which was evident, but I think we called up a lot of younger guys last year and this year they’re really maturing. I think our offense is going to run like it should run. Last year we were a little pass-heavy. This year, we’re still going to rely on the pass, and we’re still going to be a fun offense to watch, but we’re going to rely on controlling the ball and being a pace team and I think you’re definitely going to see that this year.”
Leading the offense this year will be senior quarterback Joe Notabartolo. A jack-of-all trades last year, Notabartolo has proven, without a doubt, he is the man for the job in Bailey’s eyes.
“Last year we started Joe, he played a game at tailback, he played a game at center and our last three or four games he was our backup quarterback to (Mike) Constantino and I’m not afraid to say flat out he is our starting quarterback this year,” Bailey said. “He’s our guy. He’s put in the time this offseason, he’s worked hard. He’s a leader and a lot of guys follow him. He’s one of the few guys from last year that we’re carrying over and he’s starting to take command of this offense. He is such an under-rated athlete. You look at him and you don’t expect quarterback, you don’t expect speed, you don’t expect quickness. His mind is his best asset. He is smart with the ball, he’s not going to make mistakes. He’s going to run outside of you and he’s going to run you over, he’s elusive. I think his skill-set is exactly what I want at quarterback and he brings a lot to the table. I’m very excited to see him back there.”
Notabartolo will have plenty of help in the backfield with the likes of returnees Jesse White, Jake Warren and Noah Bartels on hand to carry the ball. Bailey is also looking for big things from newcomer Jaylen Buckner, who transferred in from a school in Pennsylvania.
“He brings size to the team and I’m excited to see him run between the tackles,” Bailey said of Buckner. “I think he’ll be great in our scheme.”
Paving the way for the Indians will be a big, experienced offensive line.
“Our offensive line should be the strength of the team,”Bailey said. “We’re returning four starters, two of them are senior captains, Marc Martinez and Steven VanDenburgh, and we also have two sophomores that are also returning. They’re going to be a great unit to rely on and I think they’re going to win us games this year. Last year, we had some tough times holding off the pass rush and we weren’t efficient rushing the ball, but I think it’ll be different this year.”
C-A had difficulty stopping opponents at times last season, but Bailey switched things up a bit on defense this season and expects to see better results.
“We’ve installed an odd front this year and we’re going to put Marc (Martinez) at a true nose, and I think that’s going to help us out,” Bailey said. “I think we’re definitely very athletic at linebacker. Kyle Pelton is a name that not a lot of people know, but he’s going to be a monster this year. I think our defense as a whole is simpler, it’s better for this team and I think we’re going to make some good strides on the defensive side this year.”
Going from a two-win team to a playoff contender is no small task, but Bailey believes that goal is within reach. Helping the team’s cause is a return to its own field. Last year the Indians played their home games at Ravena High School while their own field underwent renovations.
“We want to play in a playoff game, and we want to play in a home playoff game,” Bailey said. “With the new stadium, we want to play a playoff game in front of our fans and to show them that this program hasn’t taken the winter off and has been working since day one to pick up where we left off last year. 2-7 obviously wasn’t the way we wanted to end the year, but we lost a lot of tough games.”
The Indians open up on Saturday at 1 p.m. with a Class C South Division game against Cairo-Durham/Catskill at Angelo Canna Town Park in Cairo.Coxsackie-Athens’ 2018 roster:
Seniors: Troy Cardinale (OL/DE), Marc Martinez (OL/NG), Dakota Anatriello (OL/DE), Steven VanDenburgh (OL/OLB), Joe Notabartolo (QB/ILB), Francis Burdick (WR/CB), Jake Warren(RB/ILB), Carter Blair (WR/CB).
Juniors: Noah Bartels (RB/CB), Timmy Simmons (WR/S), Jaylen Buckner (RB/ILB), Theo McNeil (WR/CB), Chaise Williams (WR/ILB), Jameson Brockett (RB/OLB), Jesse White (RB/S), Kyle Pelton (OL/OLB), Seth Dillworth (OL/DE), Colby Lord (OL/DE), Austin Roberts (OL/NG), Julian Cruz (WR/CB), Kyle Green (WR/OLB).
Sophomores: Andrew Riley (OL/DE), Colin Riley (OL/DE), Patrick McManus (OL/ILB), Anthony Lansing (WR/S), Brandon Wolbert (QB/S).
Freshmen: Xavier Bermudez (HB/ILB), Dillon Hynes (QB/S).