Teams are ready to put the COVID-abbreviated 2020 season behind them. After going 2-4, the Wolves are looking forward to moving on with a fresh start and a sense of normalcy.
The fresh start includes a new head coach that's not new to the program. Todd Silfies takes over for Jim Hillman, who decided to take a break from football after three years as the head of the Pack. He had taken over for Silfies, who stepped down after coaching from 2012 through 2017. The new head coach was an assistant to Hillman last season after two years away from the game.
While he may not feel immediate pressure to win, Silfies, who guided Kane to District 9 titles in 2014 and 2015 a berth in the 2016 championship game, knows fans are hungry for the team to compete again for a title. Hillman led the Wolves to the 2019 semi-finals.
"I'm excited to have the opportunity to coach in Kane again. You had talked about the expectations – why would we want to do it anywhere else. I would hate to play or coach in a community that didn't have high expectations, so we embrace that. It's cool to get back," said the head coach, who amassed a 63-12 record in his first stint leading the Wolves.
"The coaching staff we have right now is off the charts. Everybody has experience, and everybody has been part of championship teams. So we're excited, and the town should be excited," said senior Jake Costanzo, who attended the media day with his head coach, senior Harley Morris, and assistant coach Tyler Smith.
Morris is embracing the role of a leader.
"I kind of like being the bigger kid in the group after being the little kid looking up to the older guys. Now we're up there, and it's kind of cool. I'm ready to do what I can to lead these guys," said the 2020 District 9 North All-Star for his defensive play at safety.
Selected to the 2020 Olean Times Herald Big 30 All-Star and District 9 North All-Star teams for his defensive play on the line and at linebacker, Costanzo is also ready to lead on and off the field.
"It's awesome – I'm excited. The guys that played before us were great players and are great people. Now we have younger guys looking up to us. Being a senior, I have to take it all in. We have a big freshmen class, and I have to take these guys under my wings."
The Wolves senior remained focused during the off-season despite COVID regulations.
"I think there really isn't an excuse not to work hard. There were several opportunities for me to lift and do all the other things. Obviously we couldn't be together, but I think it was important for everybody to find themselves, keep working, and get ready for the season. Now it's here and we're ready to rip."
Morris likes what he saw going into Monday's start of Heat Acclimation Week. Full pads practices start on Aug. 16.
"I think we have a big group of kids. We had a lot of guys showing up over the summer for the optional stuff. We do have a lot of freshmen coming up, and I like seeing them working hard. We're all working hard and that's a good thing."
Silfies said he expected 35 to 40 players to hit the field on Monday, and he was pleased with the effort shown during the summer voluntary workouts.
"The kids have bought in, and they're ready to work hard. Now, we have a long way to go, but we're willing to do the work to get there."
Smith, who assisted Silfies and was on Hillman's staff last year, praised the player's ability to soak up what the coaches are relaying.
"Naturally, I think they all come in with the same mentality that they want to learn, get better, compete, and ultimately win. No matter who we're talking to or what we're talking about, the guys are always listening, always learning, looking to improve, and usually, in the end, it pays off."
The Wolves open the season at home on Friday, Aug. 27, vs. Moniteau. Everyone is looking forward to seeing a packed Paul R. Miller Stadium.
"Going down those steps is a whole different feeling. You got the band going, the fans rumbling, and you know it's game time. It's exciting. There's nothing like playing in Kane on a Friday night," Costanzo said.
The team played in the IU9 Bubble last season and only got to play St. Marys and Bradford twice and Ridgway and Otto-Eldred. This season it's back to the District 9 Large Division for the Class AA Wolves, who will also host league opponents Bradford, Punxsutawney, and Brookville. They'll be on the road against Ridgway, DuBois, Clarion Central, Karns City, and St. Marys.
"It's going to be awesome. The traveling [isn't fun], but it makes for normalcy, and that's what we want. So I'm excited for the opportunity to be able to play those different teams," Costanzo said.
While Morris feels Friday nights in Kane are fantastic, he's looking forward to seeing the hometown fans on the road.
"We have great fans, and wherever we go, they travel with us. So it's going to be pretty cool to look up and see the stands filled with our fans."
Silfies didn't make a prediction but did say what fans can expect.
"We're going to work hard, play the game the right way, and basically have fun doing it. So that's the one thing we can guarantee. You never know what's coming from anywhere else, but we take pride, and we're confident in the guys we have."
2021 Wolves Schedule
Aug. 27 – Moniteau
Sept. 3 – at Ridgway
Sept. 10 – Bradford
Sept. 17 – at DuBois
Sept. 24 – Punxsutawney
Oct. 1 – at Clarion Central (at Clarion University)
Oct. 8 – at Karns City
Oct. 15 – Brookville
Oct. 22 – at St. Marys
Oct. 29 – at Port Allegany