ENDICOTT (WBNG) -- The Union-Endicott football team is leaning on experience as its key to success this season.
"We had a young crew of players last year so they're all coming back," said head coach Tommy Baleno. "That's something that we really needed because the preseason is shortened so much and everything is at a rapid pace."
With key players like junior running back and safety Rocco Spinelli back on the field, Baleno said having juniors who played on varsity last year will be beneficial for the Tigers.
"We're really glad we had them up so they can get that experience and know what varsity is like," said Baleno. "Hopefully they're going to be very good leaders."
Spinelli was out half of last season due to a shoulder injury and only played in four games. This season he wants to pick up where he left off.
"I just want to improve all facilities of my game, offense and defense," said Spinelli. "I just want to keep on hustling and make my team proud."
"He's just an athletic guy," said Baleno. "Excited to play football. A good leader. He's one of our captains as a junior so that really tells you the quality of character that he has."
Spinelli and the other captains are leading the team as they face schools they usually don't play during the season.
The Tigers typically play Class AA schools like Elmira and Corning but due to the schedule this year, they'll be staying within Broome County.
The Tigers will face familiar opponents in Vestal and Binghamton, but also new faces including Johnson City, Chenango Valley, Windsor and Maine-Endwell.
"I think it's fantastic that we're playing people in the county," said Baleno. "A lot of times you don't get the opportunity to play your next-door neighbor. So this really makes it special because it brings back that community rivalry."
"We're already prepared," said Spinelli. "We've been playing above our class the past few years like normally so I think we'll be good."
Regardless of who is on the schedule, the Tigers' expectations for this season remain the same.
"There's nothing different about this season than last season or ten seasons ago, you get better every day," said Baleno. "We just want to become the better versions of ourselves."
Union-Endicott opens the season hosting Johnson City Friday, March 19 at 7 p.m.