CORNING - The Corning Hawks face off against Vestal on Friday, beginning the quest for their first sectional title since 2014.

Head coach George Bacalles returns for his sixth season and isn’t changing up his formula for a successful football team.

“Stay on schedule, win the turnover battle and win special teams,” Bacalles said.

Corning is coming off a roller coaster season in which it was 3-1 early but dropped its next five games and finished 3-6 for the second consecutive season. Corning then bowed out in the semifinals to eventual Section IV Class AA champion Elmira.

Consistency and growth of the team will be key in sustaining success throughout the long season for Corning.

“Constant improvement,” said Bacalles. “Every single week, getting better and better. Building upon each week and not taking steps backward.”

The 2019-20 Hawks varsity football team includes 13 seniors, 20 juniors and three sophomores.

Key returners on the offensive side of the ball for Corning include a duo of running backs, Ja’Ovian Fisher and Max Freeman, as well as quarterbacks Joey Ott and Blake VanWoert.

Fisher rushed for 659 yards last year, averaging 7.49 yards per carry, while Freeman amassed 447 yards on the ground and had 14 receptions for 175 yards.

Both VanWoert and Ott saw time at the quarterback position last season. VanWoert started out the year and netted two touchdowns through the air, but his season was cut short by a torn meniscus. Ott completed 71 percent of his passes and threw for 766 yards and nine touchdowns.

Key defensive returners for Corning will be linebackers Seth Hogue, Sam Wakeman and Ott, as well as defensive end Kyle Jankowski.

The first test is Vestal in the Hawks’ home opener. The Hawks last won an opening contest in 2016, a 47-7 win over Johnson City.

“We have to come out and play with a lot of energy and intensity, and hopefully we will be able to win,” Bacalles said.

Corning also added Mike Johnston to the staff in the offseason. The innovative minded Johnston had been at Elmira before coming back to Corning to be the offensive coordinator. Johnston won a state title with the Corning softball team this past spring.

“He brings a lot of experience, knowledge, enthusiasm and he has the mindset of wanting to win every game and that’s exactly what we want to have,” said Bacalles about Johnston at the time of his hire. “I welcome his intensity onto our staff and I think we’ll be better because of it.”

*** Breakout Box

Corning Hawks 2019 schedule

Friday, Sept. 6 - Vestal at Corning 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 13 - Ithaca at Corning 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 20 - Corning at Binghamton 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 27 - Corning at Corcoran 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 4 - Horseheads at Corning 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 11 - Corning at Union-Endicott 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 18 - Liverpool at Corning 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 26 - Corning at Elmira 1:30 p.m.