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ECC looks for turnaround as Pilkey era commences

First-year Erie Community College head coach Scott Pilkey is very familiar with Western New York football.

After coaching at Niagara Falls High School, moving on to an assistant role at ECC from 2000-05 and joining the University at Buffalo coaching staff as a recruiter in 2006, Pilkey is ready to take over as the main man at ECC.

Pilkey hopes his knowledge of the local areas and a diverse background as a recruiter will help turn around an ECC program that went 2-7 last season.

KAT: Kats is more than a team nickname under Pilkey – it’s how he plans to set his lineup. He uses KAT as an acronym for “knowledge, accountability and teamwork.” Pilkey preaches KAT to his team to excel in every facet of the game.

Competition: Pilkey best expects to learn about his players through a competitive environment. He said every position was up for grabs during camp and that the KAT acronym would best determine the starters. “If you can do all three, then pretty much in my book, you are the starter at any position,” Pilkey said.

Defensive stud: ECC returns Jason Vranic (Niagara Wheatfield) at middle linebacker. Vranic was an NJCAA honorable mention All-American last season. He led the team with 77 tackles, three interceptions and had 20.5 tackles for loss. He also shined in the classroom, posting a 3.7 GPA on the way to being named a SUNY Chancellor Scholar Athlete award winner. “He is really the heart and soul right now of our locker room and defensive side of the ball,” Pilkey said.

Quarterback: ECC has a pair of Western New Yorkers battling for the Week One quarterback job. Returning Ryan Dougherty (Bishop Timon) and newcomer Sam Castronova (Williamsville South), the 2015 PrepTalk three-sport player of the year, have both impressed Pilkey during camp. Pilkey said the scrimmages will largely determine the starter and serve to expose “whoever is going to manage our offense the best.”

About those scrimmages: ECC will utilize intrasquad scrimmages before the Sept. 14 Week One opener. The Kats also hosted Utica College, a D-III school, for a scrimmage on Aug. 27.

Local talent: More than 30 of the 73 players on last year’s roster were from Western New York. Pilkey said there is a “real good mixture of local guys” on the roster again.

He said it: “If we just keep working, if we keep our nose down to the grindstone and focus on knowledge, accountability, team every single day,” Pilkey said, “when you pick your head up, the wins and losses will take care of themselves and so will the grades at the end of the year.”

Ceremonies: ECC will induct Antwon Burton, who played in the NFL from 2006-09, into the ECC Athletics Hall of Fame after the team’s 12 p.m. Homecoming game Oct. 10.

Opening Day: The Kats open up at the Brockport JV at 4 p.m. Sept. 14. ECC opens its home season at 12 noon Sept. 26 at West-Herr Stadium on the South Campus in Orchard Park.