Erie Community College football lost more players to graduation and transfer than it has returning to the program, leaving the Kats with a youthful team in coach Scott Pilkey's fourth year.
"We're real freshmen-laden this year," Pilkey said. "But they're exciting young players. I'm excited to see what they do. ... We're probably as athletic as we've been here."
2017 record: 4-5
Top offensive returners: There may be some growing pains on the offensive line, as 6-foot-6 center Tommy Hargro is the lone returner. Wide receivers Isaiah Brown, Prentis Hinton and Che'kore Moore each recorded double-digit catches last year and will get more of an opportunity to shine with Tyler Ringwood now at the University at Buffalo. Running back Seven Turpin, a Cheektowaga graduate, averaged 4.6 yards per carry.
Top defensive returners: Linebacker Tory Rogers, who led the team with 61 total tackles, is back for his second year. So does linebacker Gilberto Ortiz, who finished fourth on the team with 36 tackles. Defensive tackle Miguel Campbell, a Clarence native, is the captain of the defense. Tariq Taul of Niagara Falls and Josh Verges return in the secondary. The staff is excited to add a pair of local linebackers to the group, John Dolac III from West Seneca East and Mason Hoose from Canisius. Both arrived on campus in the spring.
A new commander: Medina graduate Tyler Zelinski, last year's starting quarterback, left for the University of Pittsburgh after a 1,756-yard, 16 touchdown freshman season. Taking his place is sophomore Jack Edwards, a Marilla native who played his high school ball at Iroquois. He was in an option system while with the Chiefs but hasn't been afraid to throw downfield since jumping to the college level.
"He looks like Clark Kent but he throws like Superman sometimes," Pilkey said. "We've had a lot of success with our quarterbacks going on and being not just bodies, but real transition people for programs. We expect Jack will be one of them."
Building block: While ECC ended up under .500 for the first time under Pilkey, the Kats did win three of their last four games last season.
A familiar face: Joining the staff as the wide receivers coach is Gene Tundo, who previously served as the head coach of Orchard Park's varsity for 24 years. He won 12 sectional titles and New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships in Class AA in 2008 and 2011 before stepping down in March.
"A legend in Western New York high school football," Pilkey said. "He's going to be adding value at every position."
A new slogan: In the past, Pilkey has been known to pull out his favorite acronym — KAT — which stands for Knowledge, Accountability and Team. He has a new message now — Erie earns. He's trying to hammer that message into all aspects of his players' lives, not just on the field.
"A documentary like 'Last Chance U,' we're the furthest thing from that," Pilkey said. "We're Best Chance U and that's because we're a State University of New York, second largest school in Western New York only behind University at Buffalo. It puts us in a great position and we're graduating next to 70 percent of our sophomores every year."
Sept. 1 at Hocking College, 1 p.m.
Sept. 8 vs. Hudson Valley CC, 1 p.m.
Sept. 16 at Utica College JV, 1 p.m.
Sept. 29 vs. Lackawanna College, noon
Oct. 6 at College of DuPage, noon
Oct. 16 at St. John Fisher College JV, 1 p.m.
Oct. 21 at Alfred University JV, 1 p.m.
Oct. 27 at Hudson Valley CC, noon
Nov. 3 vs. Monroe College, noon
Nov. 10 vs. Nassau CC, noon