Thunder and lighting forced the Amherst Comets football squad off the field a bit earlier than scheduled Aug. 3.
That news was met with unanimous disappointment from the green and gold-clad pack as it cut short a high-energy practice session. The team, coming off a 3-7 record last year and under the leadership of new coach Mike Passerrello, is aiming for its first .500 or better season since 2010.
Passerrello comes to Amherst after guiding the Firelands Falcons to a 34-28 record over six-plus seasons.
In his first full season as coach in 2011, he led the Falcons to a 10-0 record and Patriot Athletic Conference Stars division title. He also served as an assistant coach for Amherst from 2002 to 2006.
“Pretty much my entire staff came over from Firelands with me and we’re doing of similar things in terms of building this program,” he said. “We’re going to continue changing the culture at Amherst and get back to what Comet pride was.”
Thirteen lettermen are returning from last season, including junior running back Khennedy Scagliozzo. He will take hand-offs in a scheme that will lean heavily toward a pistol wing-T attack.
“Coach Passerrello is really helping us come together instead of pointing out every single bad thing that happens,” Scagliozzo said. “We are coming together when bad and good things happen. It’s been about friendship and building a good football team.”
“Last year, we didn’t really finish games strong,” he said. “In the second half of games now, we need to come out with the same intensity. That right there could get us more wins.”
Fellow letterman Matt Lee will anchor the Comets in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the team will employ an attacking 3-4 front — another Passerrello import from Firelands.
To move back toward the top of the Southwestern Conference, Lee, like his teammate, said it’s all about working hard.
“I love being right in the middle of things, being on the line,” the senior center and nose tackle said. “I like both positions but defense is really fun. Being responsible for two gaps in the 3-4 is a little more pressure but I love it. I think everyone on the team now has bought into the program and we’re all ready to go. We’re hungry.”
Eight offensive starters and six on defense from 2016 are no longer with the team.
Senior Hunter Cassidy and Matt Fairchild, a junior, are competing for the starting quarterback position. Passerrello said the duo brings useful but different skill sets to the table.
“Matt is more comfortable in the pocket and Hunter is someone who can be used more for his running and throwing ability,” he said. “Whoever wins the job, the offense will be more tailored toward him.”
Steele will welcome Clearview to Amherst on Aug. 25 to kick off the 2017 season.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.