Mark Cerrone’s excitement grew as he discussed his transition from assistant coach to head coach of the Schenectady High School varsity football team.
His appointment became official Wednesday following a meeting with Steve Boynton, the school’s athletic director.
“There’s no place I’d rather be right now,” said Cerrone, who served as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator the last six years and will remain in that role. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to work with. I’ve got the community supporting us. I’ve got good kids and the program is moving forward. I wouldn’t want to be any place else.”
Cerrone has taken over for Jim Kramer, who just over a week ago was tabbed the offensive coordinator at Utica College following a four-year run with the Patriots. Kramer is returning to his roots, having played at Oneida High School, which is just outside of Utica.
“This is my 10th year with the program and seventh at the varsity level. I’ve honed my craft, and now I’m ready,” the 35-year-old Cerrone, a physical education teacher, said Friday afternoon. “It’s always been an aspiration of mine, as long as I can remember, to be the head of a program.”
Cerrone said he’s in a good spot with a proven cast of assistants and a roster that includes standouts
Felix Rodriguez, Hassan Rainey, DeShawn Kunath, Justin Richards and Dan Williams. The group helped Schenectady win six games last season while reaching the Section II Class AA semifinals.
Schenectady has made six consecutive playoff appearances while putting together a 32-23 record during that span. The team’s finest stretch of success included a Section II championship-game appearance in 2008 when Carm DePoalo was at the helm.
“This is not a rebuilding team,” said Cerrone. “We want to keep it rolling. We’re losing a huge piece with Jim, but the wheels haven’t fallen off the track.”
Cerrone said assistant coaches Matt Hughes, Derek Adams, Billy Rios and Keith Bailey are all returning to the varsity team.
“We have all had a hand in developing this program over the last six, seven years. We’re on the same page. It flows real well with us. When I sat down with Steve, I told him I see no reason to change our philosophy,” said Cerrone, a SUNY-Cortland graduate. “Our long-term goals and our short-term goals, like striving for perfection at every practice, remain the same.
“Some tweaks may take place, as far as what we do with the ball and on defense, but our philosophy will remain the same.”
The most significant on-field change will come at the quarterback spot. Brandon Gwinner is the projected starter in place of all-state second-teamer Kwame Jarvis, who’ll play this upcoming season at Milford Academy.
“He’s going to be a great leader for us, but there will be some growing pains,” Cerrone said of Gwinner, a junior. “The good thing is we have an experienced group that will help him along.”
Cerrone and his Patriots will make their season debut Sept. 6 against Fayetteville-Manlius in a non-league game at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse as part of the Kickoff Classic. As a high school senior in 1995, Cerrone was the starting center on a Bishop Maginn team that beat Vestal, 37-14, at the Carrier Dome.
“I played there in one of my last games. Now, I get to coach there in my first game,” said Cerrone. “I couldn’t have dreamed this up.”
Cerrone also coaches track at Schenectady.