Coach: Keith Thomson (9th year)
Last year: 1-8
Key returnees: Deaglan Giarolo, Sr., QB/FS; Matty Kelley, Sr, RB/CB; Paul Boutiette, Sr., WR/DE; Dan Griffin, Jr., RB/LB; Austin Bona, Jr., OL/DL.
Don't let last season's 1-8 record give you the wrong impression about the 2013 Wildcats. Lee was in a transition year, having graduated 18 players from the 2011 team that went to the Western Mass. Division III Super Bowl. Then they saw Cam Collins and Kelley go down for the year in the preseason. The odds certainly were not in their favor.
That's shifting this year, though. Kelley is back, healthy and ready for a heavy workload. Quarterback Giarolo is back for his senior season, as is wide receiver Boutiette. Factor in three returning linemen and the Wildcats have the making of a team to watch out for. The latter group - Bona, Jake Brunell and Matt Happelston - will be key.
"If we're able to get good play up front," Thomson said, "our goal is to be one of the top four teams in D-6."
They're schedule will demand that of them if they want to make the Division VI playoffs. Lee starts the season with consecutive road games against Old Rochester (D-5) and Greenfield (D-6) before coming back to Berkshire County, which isn't much easier with games against both Wahconah (D-4) and Mount Greylock (D-5).
Looking to pull the Wildcats through those tough games - and the others in between - is a host of players on both sides of the ball that gained a lot of experience during the tough 2012 campaign.
The Wildcats also gained some veteran leadership with the acquisition of a pair of soccer players in seniors Heamon Williams and John Graziano. Thomson is using Williams as a tight end because he is " tailor-made to be a tight end," he said, citing his soft hands and solid frame. Williams was the goalkeeper on the soccer team, so he's used to snatching hard-to-catch balls fired in his direction.
Graziano will also be utilizing his soccer skills; he'll serve as the team's kicker. He will also see time as a wide receiver.
The defense looks to be just as solid as the offense, and the line is just the beginning. Joining Bona, Brunell and Happelston is Boutiette. Thomson said he's looking for that group to anchor the defense. Griffin played all three linebacker spots last year, but will likely hold in the middle this year. He'll be the most experienced. As for the secondary, the Wildcats have many of the same skill players from offense. Giarolo, standing at 6-foot-2, gives Lee a solid option at free safety, which should make it difficult for opposing quarterbacks to complete passes deep down the middle of the field. Senior Jordan Williamson is the strong safety.