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Conner Hayes is seeking an accomplishment he doesn’t yet have: A state title

first_img Published on August 28, 2018 at 9:24 pm Contact Billy: wmheyen@syr.edu | @Wheyen3 Facebook Twitter Google+ When his coaches needed padded dummies for a drill, Hayes ran across the field to grab them, even as 10-plus players waited to do the same drill. And when his backup made a sharp cut up the field to beat a defender during a thud drill, Hayes’ cheers rang throughout the field. His worn-out Nikes hopped up and down, digging back into the ground each time he landed.After practice, Kline had a message as his team huddled around him near the sideline.“Seniors: ‘This is your year. This is your team,’” Kline said.On a small chalkboard in his room, Hayes wrote “260” about a week after that state semis loss to Lancaster, the number of days until 2018 practice opened for C-NS on Aug. 13. Every morning, he’d wake up, erase, subtract one and write the new number.“And (Aug. 13), I got to finally erase it and put the big zero,” Hayes said.“And it was time to go.” CICERO — At a mid-August practice, Cicero-North Syracuse’s Conner Hayes’ pink and lime green Nike cleats dug into the turf at the 45-yard line. The shoes, torn at the outside toes, are designated as practice shoes.He’s had the spikes since he was a freshman at C-NS, when he entered the starting quarterback position in the first year of head coach Dave Kline’s tenure with the Northstars. In Northstars’ jargon, they were “rookies” together — C-NS doesn’t refer to players by class, but as “rookie” or “non-rookie.” The year before Kline, C-NS was a losing program and Hayes played in parts of three games. With Kline and Hayes working in tandem, they’ve turned into one of central New York’s best.“It’s brick by brick, you know,” Hayes said. “It was a lot of work in the beginning, and it’s always gonna be like that, you know. Just a lot of hard work with both the coaching staff and all the players.”Hayes bought new soles for the Nikes to ensure they last a bit longer. He hopes C-NS football’s progression will persist as well. It’s all part of the wear and tear of a rebuilt program. Hayes, a senior, begins his fourth year as the starting quarterback for C-NS with a marquee opener hosting Christian Brothers Academy on Aug. 31. Last season, Hayes threw for 2,146 yards and 22 touchdowns, and he added 566 yards and nine scores on the ground, per Syracuse.com.Cicero-North Syracuse has improved in every season that Kline and Hayes have worked together. Though the Northstars are coming off consecutive one-loss seasons, they graduated 33 seniors from last year’s team.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBut Hayes yearns for the trend to continue. He doesn’t want his final season to be a step back. He wants a state title.“He’s the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time),” said Shy’rel Broadwater, one of Hayes’ receivers. “Literally. He does everything perfect. Nothing is wrong with him. Best quarterback.”The ambitions weren’t always high at C-NS — the year before Kline and Hayes arrived, the Northstars went 3-5. The losing culture with the Northstars came to be known as “C-NS Syndrome,” Hayes said.“The previous coach, it was more mediocre, you know,” Hayes said. “Just want to make the playoffs, just want to win a couple games. With them, it’s state championship … So they came here and that’s what they started preaching and that’s what we started believing.”Kevin Camelo | Digital Design EditorHayes described his freshman season as a learning year. When playing at his own level, Hayes was always the best player. But that season, he played at 5-foot-8 and 140 pounds against almost exclusively older players. The Northstars went 5-4, and Hayes completed about 52 percent of his throws.It was in his sophomore season that Hayes figured out he was “a pretty good football player,” he said. Hayes, then with a full year of experience, raised his completion percentage by more than 10 percent from his freshman to sophomore year.That led C-NS to meet Christian Brothers Academy in the 2016 Section III Class AA final, but the Northstars lost 27-14. Hayes was sacked on two comeback drive attempts, and C-NS finished the season 9-1.In his first few seasons, Hayes may have been late on some throws or decisions, but the Northstars’ further progression depended on his growth. He’s gotten more on time as he’s matured, Hayes said.“He knows what’s going on,” said Kline, when asked how Hayes has grown over four years. “He understands everybody’s responsibility offensively.”In 2017, the progression showed. In the sectional final against Baldwinsville, Hayes threw six touchdowns and ran for another to claim the school’s first Section III football title. But just as it had in 2016, the Northstars’ season ended with a lone loss, this time to Lancaster in the state semifinals, to finish 12-1.The C-NS program that needed reshaping is close to complete, in large part due to Hayes. He’s come a long way since he was scampering away from 300-pound linemen as a 140-pound freshman.At a practice 10 days before the season-opener against CBA, the coaching staff called out their team’s mistakes — many passes bounced off some of the backup receivers’ hands. Hayes picked them up, though, with a “get ‘em next time.” Commentslast_img

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