By Kevin Prise
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
This year, the Raiders return a collection of experienced veteran players, a group that has coach Dave Carson and the team excited for the season ahead.
"With four of five starters returning from last year's lineup that advanced to the sectional semifinals, I'm confident that the boys will make the most of their size, athleticism and experience," Carson said.
The only starter from last year to graduate was Brent Cole, so the Raiders have the luxury of returning 80 percent of its starting lineup, which should serve the team well right from the get-go. Barker is led by versatile senior Jacob Haight, who plays both the forward and guard positions and is a two-time first-team all-league selection. Haight struggled with injuries throughout the fall football season but got healthy near the end, making an immediate impact in leading the Barker/Roy-Hart squad to a late-season victory over Wilson as an all-purpose running back and receiver.
Senior Mitch Luckman and junior Christopher Sweeney return as starters as guard positions, with Luckman having earned second-team all-league honors last season, while Sweeney took honorable mention. Luckman is coming off a strong fall golf season in which he helped lead the Raiders to an N-O league title, under veteran coach Tim Daley.
Also returning is starting big man Bryce Moeller, who looks to anchor the Raiders' inside presence.
Barker also returns three varsity players who came off the bench last season in senior forwards Hayden Gooding and Jarid Worthington, as well as senior guard Tyler Dent.
Last year's Barker JV squad compiled a strong record of 13-5, and the Raider varsity lineup this season will include five players up from the JV level, who look to help spark the team toward the top of the N-O league. The strong contingent of juniors includes forwards Sean Benoit, Joshua Mead and Thomas Callaghan, along with guards Tanner Gregorie and Tristan Payne.
It won't be easy to chase down defending N-O league champion CSAT, which compiled an unblemished 14-0 record in league play in 2012-13. Other strong programs in the league include Newfane (11-3 last year) and Akron (10-4).
But with nearly every key piece of the puzzle returning, this just might be the year where the Raiders take their game to the next level and contend for the league crown.