Cornell embraces positives from trying season

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Thursday, August 26, 2021 | 6:01 AM


A mere glimpse at the standings could indicate that last season was a disappointing one for Ed Dawson and the Cornell Raiders.

However, despite a 1-6 record and a next-to-last finish in Class A’s Big Seven Conference — which followed a 9-2 mark and an appearance in the WPIAL Class A semifinals in 2019 — Dawson feels that there was plenty of good to take away from the 2020 campaign.

“We knew going into last year that it was going to be a transition period,” said Dawson, entering his seventh season with the Raiders. “We only had three starters returning from such a great team.”

Cornell had just five seniors on that squad, as a lack of experience, coupled with a lack of preparation due to covid-19, hampered the Raiders’ quest for a quick rebuild.

“It was tough not having a consistent offseason, not getting the kids in to get done what we needed to get done,” Dawson added. “It was rough on us, but the kids stayed diligent about it.”

The Raiders were outscored by over 17 points per game, with their lone victory coming against winless Northgate. But along the way, Cornell battled, losing tight games to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Union.

“Even in the games we were run over, I felt like we were still gaining ground as a team,” Dawson said. “Something we’ve been stressing this offseason is finishing what we started.”

Dawson’s philosophy is to find the positives from every game to accentuate and develop, and that has him excited about the 2021 version of Cornell’s program.

One reason for his optimism is explosive senior Tim Henderson, who will take on a larger role in replacing leading rusher Amere Hibbler, a Sto-Rox transfer.

“Henderson, that kid is incredible,” Dawson said. “He returns punts and kickoffs and you’re looking at him like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ And then he’s running down the sideline, waving to the cheerleaders.”

Henderson and junior Raequan Troutman will divide their time between tailback and receiver, and Shamar Wilson will work into the offensive mix as well. Micah Dickerson is set to hold down the tight end position.

Who gets them the ball is a bit up in the air. Ed Dawson’s son, E.J., started at quarterback in 2020 but will be pushed by Sincere Kimbrough, who was with the program but did not play last year.

Cagney Smith, Damaré Brough and Jamier Jones should make up the offensive line next to an anchor of a tackle, four-year starter Craig Pulford.

An emotional leader of the team is Shaun Godfrey, who had to be transported via a Life Flight helicopter during a game in 2020 after sustaining a neck injury. Godfrey is physically doing better, and was able to play some baseball in the spring, but will not compete in football. Instead, Ed Dawson has tabbed him to serve as an assistant coach.

“The kid is a football player, and he loves it through and through,” Ed Dawson said. “This would have been his senior year, and he would’ve been another four-year starter.”

Dawson is comfortable with the size of the roster, but most of the offensive starters will turn around and play defense, including his son, who was the team’s leading tackler in 2020.

Cornell begins its season with three games at home before jumping into the heart of play in the Big Seven Conference, a group of teams Dawson deeply respects.

“The Big Seven is a tough conference,” he said. “I think it will be a toss-up of who will finish in the top two. Hopefully it’s us. That’s always the plan.”

Cornell

Coach: Ed Dawson

2020 record: 1-6, 1-6 in Class A Big Seven Conference

All-time record: 182-250-11

SCHEDULE

9.3 Mohawk, 7

9.10 Jefferson-Morgan, 7

9.17 Northgate*, 7

9.24 at Shenango*, 7

10.1 Union*, 7

10.9 at Burgettstown*, 1:30

10.15 at Rochester*, 7:30

10.22 Fort Cherry*, 7

10.29 at OLSH*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: E.J. Dawson

26-72, 222 yards, 2 TDs

Receiving: Tim Henderson

8-77, 1 TD

Rushing: Amere Hibbler*

40-437, 2 TDs

*Transferred to Sto-Rox

FAST FACTS

• Cornell’s program is a co-op between Cornell High School and Nazareth Prep.

• The Raiders have won one WPIAL playoff game in school history, a 32-27 victory over California in the 2019 quarterfinals.

• From 2012-2015, Cornell did not compete in football and was part of a co-op with Quaker Valley.

• Cornell tied for the Big Seven Conference title in 2019 but has not won a conference crown outright since 1983.

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