Erie Community College coach Scott Pilkey has a solid record heading into his third season leading the Kats football program. He's 13-7 in two seasons and this year returns seven starters.
Wins and losses aren't the measure of success for Pilkey. It's all about getting players to graduation. But on the field, the Kats have been winning and this year an experienced offensive line and some returners on defense could help ECC with another year of solid performances.
2016 record: 7-3
Top offensive returners: The key may be up front as five offensive linemen who saw considerable playing time return. That includes tackle Tarik Johnson, who was a first-team NJCAA All-American, tackle Lamont Clemons, guard Elbert Munn (Riverside) and center Chris Steves (Roy-Hart).
Top defensive returners: Defensive end Deandre Jenkins (Lockport) had 37 tackles, seven sacks and four interceptions last year. He verbally committed to University of Buffalo. Defensive back Dante Mount (Lockport) had 35 tackles and two interceptions.
Key losses: The Kats lose the only two-year starting quarterback in the program's history after Sam Castronova (Williamsville South) graduated and moved on to play at NAIA Bethel in Tennessee. Defensive end Jack Pope was an honorable mention NJCAA All-American and is now playing at University of Miami. Defensive back Christian Cheatom (Lackawanna) was a second-team NJCAA All-American and is now at Edinboro. Tight end Moses Marshall is at Kansas.
Looking for a QB: With Castronova gone, the Kats will need to find a new starting quarterback and the competition includes four candidates.
Tyler Zielinski was with ECC for spring practices and is a transfer from Ashland University. Alex Douglas was ranked a top 100 high school football player in Canada and comes to Buffalo from St. Benedict near Windsor, Ontario. Jack Edwards is a freshman from Iroquois and Jon Wolf from Depew are also in the mix.
"What we try to look for is someone to make very good decisions in our offense and provide stability in distributing the football to people," Pilkey said. "We believe we have skilled players and we're going to rely heavily on the returning offensive line to protect the quarterback. Where we lose a little experience at the quarterback spot, we have it in the offensive line right now."
Measuring success: Pilkey doesn't talk about wins and losses. He doesn't even talk that specifically about players who continue with their football careers at four-year schools. What he does talk about is graduating student-athletes from ECC and setting them up to take advantage of whatever opportunities come around on the other side of the degree.
"When we talk about 'Kats' we regard it as knowledge, accountability, and team," Pilkey said. "We try to approach the student-athlete with a total approach of mind, body, and spirit. We really try to provide that. Our team GPA was the highest it's been in 10 years and our graduation rate has been pretty impressive. That's what I'm proud of – to see them graduate and move on."
Sept. 2 vs. ASA College at Virginia State University, 1 p.m.
Sept. 9 vs. Hocking College, noon
Sept. 17 at Buffalo State JV, 1 p.m.
Sept. 30 at Lackawanna College, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 vs. College of DuPage, noon
Oct. 14 vs. ASA College, noon
Oct. 22 at Alfred University JV, 1 p.m.
Oct. 28 vs. Hudson Valley CC, noon
Nov. 4 at Nassau CC, 1 p.m.
Nov. 11 at Monroe, 1 p.m.