Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO The 2012 season marks only the third year that Monticello High School has fielded a varsity football squad since the 1930s and even with its star and leader, quarterback Shane Jackson, sidelined for his entire senior year with an ACL tear, as well as the loss of 18 graduating seniors, coach Matt Buddenhagen expects nothing less than what the team has accomplished the prior two seasons.
To make the playoffs.
At a recent afternoon practice, the intense Buddenhagen could be heard making sure his young team knows exactly what's expected of them.
“That's the goal guys, make the playoffs, we're not easing into our schedule, it's a league game right off the bat,” barked Buddenhagen. “We've gotta be in great shape, be physical and get off the ball guys.”
With a lot of new faces only five players return from last year's squad a young line and the catastrophic injury to one of the section's best athletes, you'd think Buddenhagen and the coaching staff would see the upcoming season as a rebuilding year. But Buddenhagen demands more from his team and staff, and generally gets it.
A Delaware Valley Central School and then Ithaca College graduate, Buddenhagen was first an assistant coach at Warwick for five years before becoming head football coach at Cornwall. He also was an assistant coach at Sullivan West before taking over at Monticello for the program's revival in 2008.
A tough but fair coach, Buddenhagen has an almost uncanny ability to see everything going on on the field during practice. Even while position drills are taking place on every corner of the field, he quickly spots and calls out any player slacking off, a tribute to the vision he displayed as a star running back at DVCS in the mid-90s and later as a kick returner in college.
Coach and Jackson are both confident that whomever wins out between senior Mike Rogers and Junior John Harned as Jackson's replacement this season will get the job done.
"Either one of them will do just fine,” said Jackson. “They’re both great quarterbacks and have been behind me the whole time. I have the utmost confidence in both of those guys."