School: RFA Black Knights
Head Coach: Ted Swavely (6th season)
Assistant Coaches: Billie Mays (defensive coordinator) , Todd Allen, Al Bevilacqua, Justin Torres
2015 Season Review: (Record) It was a roller coaster for the Black Knights in 2015. They started out with three straight losses to Nottingham, CBA, and Liverpool. However, RFA rallied quickly, reeling off four straight to qualify for the playoffs as the seventh seed. Unfortunately for the Black Knights, their run toward the title would end in the first round, as Baldwinsville would knock off RFA, 31-13 to eliminate the Black Knights. However, the Black Knights’ season would end on a high note, as they would finish off their season with a 31-14 victory over Cicero-North Syracuse and end with a respectable 5-4 record.
2016 Outlook: The Black Knights start off the 2016 campaign with a bang, as the longest rivalry in New York State—RFA vs. Proctor—writes its 125th chapter on September 3 at Tom Hoke Field. However, it doesn’t get much easier after that, as Liverpool comes to Rome the very next week, followed by a trip to perennial sectional contender Fayetteville-Manlius. Weeks Six and Seven will tell the story of where the Black Knights will go in the 2016 season, as 2015 Class AA-I champion and perennial Sectional Champion Christian Brothers Academy will make a trip to Tom Hoke Field, followed by the season finale against Henninger in a matchup of Class AA mainstays.
Returning Starters (Offense/Defense): The Black Knights will have a lot of experience on both sides of the ball, bringing back a total of 13 players from last season’s squad. The seven on offense are led by powerhouse running back JaQuan Rollins, while the six returning members of the defense will be led by linebacker Tyler Redpath and head coach Ted Swavely’s son Ryan at defensive end.
Top Returners: JaQuan Rollins (RB/OLB), Ryan Swavely (OT/DE), Arin Samad (OG), Robert “Remmy” Edwards (DE/FB), Nate Korrigan (CB/WR), Dylan O’Connell (TE/MLB), Tyler Redpath (OLB/RB), Tristen Hunzinger (QB), Craig Beach (OT)
Newcomers to Watch: Ethan Powell (WR/CB), Jon Peterson (MLB), Tyler Baker (FB/OLB), Vito Gotti (DT)
Strengths: As the saying goes, football games are won in the trenches, and nowhere is that more of a strength than in Rome, where head coach Ted Swavely has four of his five offensive linemen from 2015 returning to play. According to Swavely, the unit has been solid during training camp and beyond.
“They’ve gelled well,” said Swavely, “not only on the field, but in the weight room and as a unit.”
While Swavely cited his entire offense as a strength, nowhere are they stronger than in the backfield, where superstar running back JaQuan Rollins has been tearing up the field in Rome, and will hope to make his senior season his best.
“He can absolutely play the game,” Swavely said.
Possible Weakness: Through the last two weeks at training camp in Rome, Swavely has noticed one big weakness in the RFA armor: tackling.
“Once you get into the heat of battle with some great players, you need to be able to tackle them,” Swavely said. Class AA-I is full of great runners and receivers, and if the Black Knights cannot tackle them, they could be in for a long season and an even longer offseason.
Keys to Season: Swavely was quick to mention two big keys to the Black Knights’ season. The first big key to the season, like so many teams around the section, was physicality. The Knights, according to Swavely, needed to be tough and not be pushed off the ball.
“We can’t give up the big plays,” Swavely said.
Another key to RFA’s season was the turnover battle. Takeaways doomed the Black Knights in 2015, and with a division as tough as the AA-I, one or two losses could mean RFA’s exit from the playoff picture.
“When the game ends, we need to be on the plus side of the turnover battle,” Swavely said. “We just need to cause more fumbles and inteceptions than them.”
Sectional Titles: Six (1984, 1985, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996)
Last Sectional Title: 1996. In the last title won by revered Black Knights head coach Tom Hoke (whom RFA’s home field is named after), the Black Knights upset New York State top-ranked Henninger 16-12, avenging a loss to the Black Knights earlier in the season. Former Camden head coach and RFA quarterback Aaron Fiorini would prove to be the decisive factor in the game, scoring what would be the game-winning touchdown pass to Justin Davis to give RFA their sixth Section III title and their fourth in six years.
September 2: vs. Proctor, 7:00
September 9: vs. Liverpool, 7:00
September 16: @ Fayetteville-Manlius, 7:00
September 23: vs. West Genesee, 7:00
September 29: @ Corcoran, 7:00
October 7: vs. Christian Brothers Academy, 7:00
October 14: vs. Henninger, 7:00