CALEDONIA — Wellsville coach Jarrod Bell will have some extra company on the sidelines tonight as the Lions visit Caledonia-Mumford/Byron-Bergen in the regular season finale.
A sizable group of players will be benched to start the game following unexcused absences from practice on Monday. The season isn’t over yet, though, and the Lions (1-5) still have an outside chance at a playoff berth if they pull off the win tonight.
“A handful of kids will be standing next to me keeping me warm for the first quarter,” Bell said. “You get that sometimes at this point in the season with the shape we’re in. Some kids start thinking about basketball, wrestling, or hunting, which might seem more exciting than football.
“We still have a lot to play for, though. We’re sitting here 1-5, but only a few points out of a playoff spot with the power seeding. There’s a lot of good matchups in the league for us this week. A lot of things have to go our way and we have to win, but if things fall in place for us we could be the No. 8 seed and going to Letchworth or Penn Yan in the first round of sectionals.”
Despite the setback to tonight’s lineup, Bell isn’t giving up on the season. Neither are the players who will step into starting roles tonight.
“We had 15, 16 kids there Monday, and we said you’re the show, you’re starting. Those kids have taken ahold of that,” Bell said. “You hear it at the next level, next man up, next man in. We’ve jumped on that a little bit. We talked about that last night. We need to get off the bus fast and get off to a good start.”
A fast start will be imperative for a lineup that will be missing a number of starters for the first quarter. Ty Jackson has also been ruled out of the game with an illness. Some of the newcomers will be getting their first career starts.
“It will be good to get them on film to help teach them and get that experience, which is invaluable,” Bell said. “Hopefully it will help slow the game down for them next year, they won’t have to wonder how fast the game plays, they’ll have that experience to go back to and next year they might have a little more confidence. That’s what we’re trying to build, build a little confidence every single time on the field. We’re not far off being a really good football team if we do some of the things we’ve been talking about all year long. The last couple weeks our discipline has been a lot better. We’ve cut down on penalties considerably. It will be good to get some of those young players in the lineup.”
Caledonia-Mumford/Byron-Bergen (2-4) has a host of common opponents with Wellsville, losing to Wayland-Cohocton (28-14), Letchworth/Warsaw (14-0) and LeRoy (15-7), while defeating Avon (20-14).
Bell is looking for the Lions to control the trenches tonight.
“Our offensive line was a strong point early when we did have success. The last couple weeks we’ve struggled a little bit, whether it’s a scheme from another team or being outmatched with speed. Batavia was playing at a lot different speed than we’re used to, from the D-line to the linebackers at the second level," Bell said. "We can finish our season strong if we’re moving people off the ball offensively and able to move the ball, and hopefully score more than one TD. It would be nice to end with a flurry. They’re young up front, not a typical Cal-Mum team that I’ve seen over the years. If we can get after them and use that to our advantage that will help us out a lot.”
Win, lose or draw, Bell wants Wellsville to be competitive.
“Go out and compete. Even if we finish 2-5, not many schools have gone on the road to LeRoy and Cal-Mum and gotten wins. Those are two tough places to go play, schools that predominately play really tough at home. We still have something to play for. We can get a few more wins than last year, get in Connors and Ferris and have a chance at getting to that ninth week. Perhaps some new younger blood at the end of the season will rejuvenate everybody.”