Niagara Gazette — The Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons are looking for a turnaround in year three under head coach Erik O'Bryan, who took over the team two years ago after a successful five-year run at North Tonawanda.
Leading the way will be senior Jack Mulcahy, a 6-foot-3 guard who averaged 15 points and eight rebounds last season en route to being named first team all-Niagara Frontier League.
"Jack's kind of a coach's dream," O'Bryan said. "Honestly, most of these kids on my team are. They're very dedicated and work hard, and Jack's kind of the leader of all that. He's not a talker, but he leads by example.
Mulcahy's leadership was evident during the Cataract City Classic on Friday, when the Falcons took on Sweet Home. Struggling from the free-throw line with his team protecting a late lead, Mulcahy approached the stripe, each of his teammates dropped back to defend the fast break. Mulcahy missed the free throw, but corralled the rebound with four Panthers surrounding him. He finished the game with 18 boards.
"It's tough to get on a kid who works so hard," O'Bryan said. "And he has. He's bigger and stronger this year than he was last season."
Joining Mulcahy in the Falcons' all-senior starting lineup are forward Nick Yarussi and guards Anthony Cappuccilli, Murray Taylor and Chris Galvano.
Yarussi, who also plays on the offensive and defensive lines of the N-W football team, provides a big body inside. Taylor, Cappuccilli and Galvano serve as a trio of outside scorers meant to take advantage of Mulcahy's drives.
"We're expecting a lot out of Chris," O'Bryan said. "Cappuccilli, he's a kid we kind of have to rely on a little bit more than we have. He took six shots the other night, and he's been hampered by an ankle injury.
"He's still getting in the flow and is a little unsure of himself right now, but he can really score once he gets his game going."
Coming off the bench will be senior forwards Zach Dubuc and Dan Miera, as well as guards Anthony Forcucci and Joe Ayers, a senior and a junior.
O'Bryan didn't use much of his bench in Friday's closely-contested game, but he said that won't be the case throughout the season.
"I'm hoping to go deeper than what we played the other night, but sometimes just have to go with your guys," he said. "I stuck with them the other night, but hopefully we can get a few more guys involved so they can spare Jack and the starters."
O'Bryan believes in slowing the game down and playing in the halfcourt. He's instilled that in his players since his time at North Tonawanda, but this year could be different. He said his roster allows him to play at whatever pace gives his team the best chance of winning.
"I've always been a half-court, man-to-man guy, because you only have to defend half the court instead of the whole court," O'Bryan said, "but this year we're going to have to do whatever we have to do. If we have to run, we really have to make sure we control the pace. We call it 'composed chaos.'
"Every team likes to get out and run, but we need to make sure we do it on our own terms."
The Falcons are 1-2 early in the season, with losses to tough Sweet Home and St. Mary's teams. They open NFL play Friday at Lockport.Follow high school sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.