Cougars looking to start 2013 on right note

ConVal will host Lebanon under the lights Friday at 7 p.m. to begin a revamped Division II schedule

The ConVal football team will kick off its 2013 campaign on Friday at home when the Cougars play host to Lebanon at 7 p.m.

With a new schedule this season, due to the NHIAA’s decision to realign its football divisions, ConVal is looking for a strong start in hopes of making it to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The Cougars have made the jump from Division III to D-II this year under the new alignment. Football is now made up of just three divisions consisting of four conferences. Since 2008, the sport had used a six division format.

ConVal has not played Lebanon for several years. The Raiders played in Division IV a year ago and won just two games, but they are only three years removed from winning a state championship.

The Cougars are one of five teams in the D-II West Conference, while Lebanon will be part of the North Conference. The Raiders are one of five out-of-conference games for ConVal this season, but all five are Division II opponents.

“We have studied up on them,” said ConVal head coach Ryan McCartney. “I’ve seen some film.”

It will be the debut of nine new starters on each side of the ball after the Cougars lost 13 seniors from a year ago.

Junior John Crowley is McCartney’s guy to lead the offense and he gives ConVal a dual threat quarterback to keep opposing defenses honest. Crowley got quite a bit of experience on the JV team last year, but is now expected to take his game to the next level.

“We have a good game plan for him,” said McCartney. “I think it’s important to get John into a rhythm and comfortable.”

The two-back system of senior Riordan McCole and junior Dakota Nute are going to pace the running game that also feature a pair of bruising full backs, which allows for McCartney to bring back the Power I formation.

“I think we’re going to be able to move the ball effectively,” said McCartney. “We need to control the clock.”

But unlike last year, when the Cougars ran the ball on just about every down, McCartney expects to challenge the Lebanon secondary. He has a group of talented wide receivers and plans to use them often to keep Lebanon’s defense guessing.

“We have a lot of talent in the receiving core,” said McCartney.

Only one of the starting five offensive linemen returns from last year when the Cougars were 4-6 overall and an extra point away from a .500 season. But McCartney is expecting big things from the boys up front, as ConVal will look to establish a strong running attack early that will ultimately open up the pass.

The defense was strong down the stretch last year and while many of the positions are filled by new starters, McCartney points to his team’s execution on that side of the ball as crucial to its success on Friday.

“Defense is going to be a key for us,” said McCartney.

McCartney said the team had its best offensive practice of the year Tuesday and hopes that translates into a season opening win for the second straight year on Friday.

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