Cornell ready to take another step forward
For Cornell football coach Ed Dawson, the last few seasons have been like a marathon.
After Quaker Valley ended its co-op with Cornell, the Raiders returned to competition in 2016. After going 0-9 its first season back, the program went 1-8 last year. Dawson said the team is ready to take the next step forward after gaining much-needed experience over the previous two seasons.
“The kids show up every day and work their tails off,” Dawson said. “The last couple of seasons have been a marathon, not a sprint. Just them gaining experience. We have stressed the process every day, and they have bought in.”
The Raiders gained some momentum at the end of last season as they defeated Northgate, 22-6, for the program’s first win since its return.
“I don’t want to say it is good to win one game, but it was good to win the last game,” Dawson said. “The kids were ready to start lifting that Monday. We are a better than a one-win team. But that one win was paramount for the program.”
The program did lose a few players who transferred during the offseason. But Cornell enters its co-op with Nazareth Prep, previously known as Holy Family Academy, for the second year. Dawson said the co-op helps bring in around an additional 10 players.
The offense is led by Zaier Harrison. The junior quarterback finished with 1,163 yards through the air, 252 yards on the ground and 13 touchdowns last season.
“He is fun to watch,” Dawson said. “He is a true competitor and leader. He has the respect of everyone from the seniors to the freshmen in the locker room. I’m excited to see him play this year.”
Senior receiver Jalen Lee received second-team all-conference honors last season. The Raiders did add a transfer during the offseason, as Luke Piccolo moved over from Moon. The senior will play a major part in the offense, lining up at running back and receiver.
The offensive line will look to power the team to success. Cornell returns seniors Gino Mull (5-foot-7, 272 pounds), Corey Johns (5-10, 238) and DaMarkus Dixon (5-9, 214), along with junior Tyler Godfrey (5-10, 235) to battle in the trenches.
“I feel our skill positions are good,” Harrison said. “But it all starts with the offensive line. They are going to help us a lot.”
The line may also be the strength of the defense. Johns (50 tackles, 2 sacks) and Dixon (47 tackles) were the Raiders’ leading tacklers. Godfrey finished with 36 tackles.
Harrison found success on defense with 32 tackles and an interception.
“We have multiple two- and three-year starters back,” Dawson said. “They have been taking their lumps. We now want to qualify for the postseason. We tell them that if they don’t want to win championships, they shouldn’t be here. That is our goal.”
The players have heard that message loud and clear. When asked what the ultimate goal of the season is, Harrison had one word.
Coach: Ed Dawson
2017 record: 1-8, 1-7
All-time record: 168-237-11
Date, Opponent, Time
8.31, at Union*, 7 p.m.
9.7, Bentworth, 7 p.m.
9.14, at Sto-Rox*, 7 p.m.
9.22, at Northgate*, 10 a.m.
9.28, Rochester*, 7 p.m.
10.5, Bishop Canevin*, 7 p.m.
10.12, at Laurel*, 7 p.m.
10.19, at Greensburg C.C., 7 p.m.
10.26, OLSH*, 7 p.m.
*Class A Big 7 Conference game
Passing: Zaier Harrison
116-245, 1,176 yards, 10 TDs
63-261 yards, 4 TDs
Receiving: Jalen Lee
31-363 yards, 1 TD