By Scott Kindberg
SYRACUSE - The Jamestown Red Raiders football team officially started its offseason weight training program this week.
Jamestown quarterback Jake Sisson, left, and receiver Stephen Carlson (89), below, helped the Red Raiders put up video game-like
offensive numbers on their way to a
10-1 record and a Section 6 Class AA
football championship last fall.
Photos by Tim Frank
''It's a fresh beginning,'' head coach Tom Langworthy said, ''and a time to put the past behind us and look to what's ahead.''
But it was hard to ignore the news found on the New York State Sportswriters Association website Tuesday. By early afternoon the NYSSWA had posted its 2013 Class AA all-state teams, and, not surprisingly, Jamestown was well-represented.
Senior quarterback Jake Sisson and junior offensive end Stephen Carlson are first-team selections, and junior defensive back Zack Panebianco and junior offensive lineman Joe Mistretta are second- and third-team choices respectively.
''I'm happy for Jake, Stephen, Zack and Joe,'' Langworthy said. ''What's really nice is three of those guys are going to be back with us next year. That's another reason I'm smiling right now.''
Of course, Langworthy had plenty to be pleased about after the season the Red Raiders (10-1) had last fall, highlighted by the Section 6 Class AA championship, their first since 2000, and a No. 4 ranking in the final state poll.
''This is the season that put Jamestown back as one of the premier programs in the state,'' he said. ''I think when you get to the state playoffs every team is very close to being a state champion. We still feel like we were within a few plays of competing for a state championship.''
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With Sisson behind center, the Red Raiders, who lost to eventual state champion Aquinas in the Far West Regional, came ever so close.
The 6-foot, 190-pounder completed 178-of-275 passes for 3,184 yards and 33 touchdowns, ran for 732 yards and 24 TDs and came home with a host of hardware, including Western New York and Football Weekly player-of-the-year honors as well as the Connolly Cup.
''I'm really proud of Jake,'' Langworthy said. ''He put a lot of work in and dedicated a large portion of his life the last two years to helping the team as much as possible. He was selfless and he didn't care about individual accomplishments as long as the season was a success.''
But Sisson's gaudy numbers are hard to ignore. His passing yards are the most in WNY history, breaking the previous mark held by Chad Kelly of St. Joe's (3,050 in 2011) and are the second-most in New York State annals, trailing Greg Paulus of Christian Brothers Academy (3,677 in 2004).
His personal highlight came in Week Two at Kenmore West when he completed 21 of 40 passes for a WNY-record 508 yards. That effort broke the old record of 492 yards set by Williamsville South's Joe Licata in 2009. It places Sisson in a fourth-place tie in state history for passing yards in a game. He also broke a Ralph Wilson Stadium record for passing yards in a game with 402 in a win over Frontier.
''We knew he had a chance to (earn first-team all-state),'' Langworthy said. ''What's also special is - and people might not realize it - is how Jake has raised the level of play of others.''
Carlson, Panebianco and Mistretta can attest to that.
Carlson, a 6-4, 186-pounder, caught 56 passes for 1,065 yards and 12 touchdowns. Among his highlight-reel efforts was 202 receiving yards and a touchdown against Orchard Park in Week Seven. Defensively, he was second on the team with 88 tackles.
''Stephen is the full package,'' Langworthy said. ''He's got everything you want in a football player, both at the high school and college level. He's got good hands, he a technician, academically he's outstanding, and he's able to catch the ball on short, intermediate and deep routes. ... He's a tremendous player, but most importantly, he just has fun when he plays.
''He looks like a kid who is playing in his backyard and having a good time doing it.''
The same could be said for Panebianco, the 5-9, 180-pound do-everything junior.
On defense, he had 61 tackles and five interceptions. As a wide receiver, he broke the Ralph Wilson Stadium record for most receiving yards with 181, caught 60 passes for 1,034 yards and 10 TDs, and averaged 37 yards on 17 punts.
''He's a clutch performer,'' Langworthy said. ''He thrives in the critical moments and the big opportunity. As a coach, I really appreciate that. He has that sense when he knows something is important and that's when he's at his best.''
Mistretta, a 6-1, 265-pounder, was the anchor of Jamestown's line and was named the team's Underclassman Lineman of the Year. On defense, he recorded 70 tackles with five sacks at nose tackle.
''He's really focused, really intense and he's very serious in just about everything,'' Langworthy said. ''He has goals academically and athletically and he sets out to accomplish them.''
Above all, Langworthy said, the group enjoys playing the game.
''They play the game the right way,'' he said. ''They care about the team and they're model people. If you're somebody in Jamestown who has a son playing youth football, you'd want him to do the things these four are doing, on and off the field.''
Sophomore quarterback Jake Zembiec, who led Aquinas to a 13-0 record and a New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship, was named the player of the year in Class AA. Zembiec threw for 1,932 yards and 26 touchdowns in becoming the first sophomore to be selected All-Greater Rochester player of the year. He is the third Aquinas player in four years to be chosen a state player of the year.