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ECC preview: Experience bodes well for Kats

The Scott Pilkey era at Erie Community College started on the right foot last season. The Kats improved their win total, making the jump from a two-win in 15 season to a six wins in the former University at Buffalo assistant’s first year on the job.

“I don’t believe there was a single game where we weren’t talented enough, weren’t deep enough,” Pilkey said.

The team was very freshmen-heavy, meaning there are plenty of returning starters. Experience like that is often hard to come by at a two-year school.

2015 Record: 6-4

Top returners: QB Sam Castronova, WR Vinny Gregory, DL Jack Pope, DL Jacob Ratigan.

Top newcomers: LB John Dolac III, DL D’Andre Jenkins, TE Moses Marshall.

Incoming Recruits: Pilkey said the biggest difference between this year and last is he and his staff were able to participate in the entire recruiting season. They’ve focused on Western New York and in a five-hour radius around the area.

“Recruiting for me is beyond just learning about football players,” Pilkey said. “It’s about developing relationships.”

The Kats had nine players in this year’s Kensington Lions Club All-Star High School Football Classic, more than any other school. Among them was former Canisius quarterback Tyler Stranahan, who switched his choice from Washington & Jefferson to commit to ECC. Pilkey called him the quarterback of the future.

Hole in the middle: ECC will have to replace stud middle linebacker Jason Vranic, who will be a walk-on at Penn State. He led the team with 69 tackles and 12.5 tackles for loss in addition to sharing the team lead for interceptions and forced fumbles.

Pilkey likes Depew’s Nick Perrine to step into the middle linebacker role, saying he had a great spring season. He also said linebacker is one of the strongest units in this year’s incoming recruiting class.

Quarterback: Castronova returns as the Kats’ signal-caller after throwing for 1,350 yards and 13 touchdowns in his freshman season. For ECC to take the next step, he’ll likely need to make smarter decisions and lower his interception total from the nine he threw last season.

“He’s got every throw in his tool kit,” Pilkey said. “The biggest asset he has this year is his eyes are better trained. He reads a secondary better. In high school you usually get to see Cover One or Cover Three. He saw a little bit of everything this year.”

Quotable: “You’re never going to hear me talk about wins and losses,” Pilkey said. “Those are byproducts of our process.”

Hard hits: Players like Perrine were able to impress early because ECC had a full-contact spring for the first time.

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