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Zaluzney vows to be steady from start page 2
High school football top five countdown: No. 4 Courtland.

 Cougars QB Nick Zaluzney threw for 1,400 yards and 14 TDs last year. He hopes to better those stats this season.
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Date published: 8/22/2011

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"The main emphasis with Nick this year is to keep us away from the bad play," Hall said. "He got flushed out of the pocket a couple of times in our scrimmage with Brooke Point and didn't panic. He's got more poise."

Helping him keep that poise this year will be a strong cast of returning starters. Running backs Kirk Wilson and Michael Bailey, linemen Jonathan Burton and Chris Kernisky, and wide receiver E.J. Green were all all-district selections.

Burton, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound tackle, knows the offensive line (the largest in 10 years) has a big role to play if the Cougars' wing-T attack is going to repeat last year's success. That's especially true when it comes to protecting Zaluzney.

"We have to step up and play as a team," Burton said. "And we've been telling Nick all year that we've got his back. We're going to do our best to make sure there are zero sacks."

That kind of protection will undoubtedly benefit Zaluzney in his second season under center. But even if the protection breaks down at times, it appears the hard-working senior will be able to weather the storm this time around.

"You can tell that Nick is a lot more confident and more excited this year," said Wilson, who rushed for 1,000 yards last season. "I really think he's ready to carry his share of the load."

The new-found confidence is not the only thing that has improved for Zaluzney and his teammates. There's also the maturity that comes from enduring last season's 0-4 start and then making it to the state semifinals.

The memory of that remarkable journey is still fresh, and the Cougars are ready to make some more memories this year.

"Football can [bring] adversity and you have to deal with it," Zaluzney said. "We've matured and that's what this team is all about. We're staying focused and everybody has a shared interest in having fun and winning."

Steve Franzello: 540/374-5440
Email: sfranzello@freelancestar.com


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PRESEASON TOP FIVE

This week, The Free Lance-Star will count down its preseason top five area high school football teams. The annual preview edition will be published Thursday.

Yesterday: No. 5 Massaponax

Today: No. 4 Courtland

Tomorrow: No. 3

Wednesday: No. 2

Thursday: No. 1