September 01, 2006
HS Football Preview
Without further ado,
Saratoga is returning most of their key players from last season's team that reached the sectional final last year. They lost a couple players from their front seven and o-line, but return most of their important skill position players. And most of last year's other contenders (Shen, LaSalle, Albany, Nisky) lost a lot of talent. If the Blue Streaks don't win the AA title this year, it will be a big surprise.
Realistically, any of these teams could end up as the second-best by November. Troy has been down recently, with 11 losses over the last two years. But they should have good players this year, and they have one of the historically best programs in the section. CBA is very talented at the skill positions, with Joe Zappone at running back and Luke Weaver as the primary reciever. Shen lost a lot from last year's team, but they still are Shen, and the rest of the section (Saratoga excluded) is down as well this year. Colonie has won the JV title for each of the last two years. And Colonie opens their season at home against Saratoga, which should be one of the best games of this weekend. (Shen hosts Troy on Friday as well)
11. Ballston Spa
LaSalle has some quick running backs this year, and from what I hear an improving young QB (sorry that I don't yet know his name). Nisky lost star QB Bryan Grastorf, but should still be the second-best team in a fairly weak division. They have some very good players returning, especially on the defensive side. But the quarterback play will not be stellar this year, as two sophmore QBs are learning the system. I don't really know how good Bethlehem is, but David Plummer should keep this team in the top half of the section (or at least right at the halfway point). Albany has plenty of athleticism, but not enough talent to make a serious run. And apparently a bunch of Albany players transferred to Albany Academy (though I haven't heard who they are or anything about them, so I don't really know how much it will affect them). Something that I want to bring up, and this seems like the best spot: There are schools that I call the "small" schools - not in terms of enrollment but in terms of size. For example, Guilderland is the "smallest" school in AA - they always seem to have really small kids on their sports teams. Columbia and Niskayuna are the same way. These teams tend to fare poorly in sports like football, because they don't have enough size on their lines to compete. Saratoga and Shen are generally "big" schools, though Ballston Spa has had the largest players that I personally have played against. I don't know why I felt like bringing that up. I'll move on now...
1. Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake
I have no idea if BH-BL is actually the favorite this year; there are four or five teams that you could consider the favorite this year. But BH-BL plays in the easier of the two divisions (division 2 seems to be more talented), and lots of the other teams have lost a lot. Burnt Hills returns just about everybody from a defense that was very good last year, and running backs Kyle Holmes and D.J. Moore will help control the clock. They will be running behind an entirely new offensive line, however. Class A is a great division in section 2, and whichever team comes out of this section will make a lot of noise in states.
4. Glens Falls
Amsterdam has won the Class A title five years in a row, but they've lost a lot of talent. Some people would probably put them lower, but I can't justify putting a team looking for a six-peat any lower than second. This is Lansingburgh's first year as a Class A team; they dominated in Class B, but jumping classes is not easy to do. I just don't think they will be able to roll over all these teams like they did the weaker Class B teams. But they have a lot of talent. Glens Falls would have been right there with all the contenders if all-state WR Jimmer Fredette were playing; but Fredette is a D-1 recruit in basketball and will focus on that instead, leaving GF a little bit below the big three. This is Mohan's best team in recent memory, but that's not saying much. Still, any of these teams could win the title if they get hot at the right time.
6. Bishop Maginn
8. Averill Park
10. South Glens Falls
Maginn also has some good talent this year; they will be tested early when they open up their season tomorrow against Amsterdam. Gloversville QB Kris Barone suffered a season-ending concussion last year, but he's ready for this season and has a huge line in front of him. AP made a deep run last year but lost a lot of talent. Scotia opens with Lansingburgh and Amsterdam, and a game at SGF is really the only winnable game on their schedule.
Ravena is clearly the favorite in Class B this year with last year's champion Lansingburgh in Class A this year. They lost a lot of talent, especially on the o-line, but they have two strong RBs back and should be the favorite. There are a couple other teams that could win the title, but Ravena right now looks like the best of the bunch.
3. Hudson Falls
4. Albany Academy
Cobleskill has the best returning QB of any of these teams in Dunea Lockwood. I've heard Lockwood compared to T.J. Czeski (Amsterdam's star QB last year), albeit without quite as much talent. And Cobleskill's program is always strong every year. Hudson Falls also has a good program and returns some talent. Albany Academy has some good players, but has traditionally lacked the depth necessary to be a great team. Hudson has a lot of returning players, but not really enough talent to crack the top four.
9. Taconic Hills
Fonda will be a much different program this year without Alex Mancini on the sidelines, but they should still have a decent team. Johnstown could be a bit of a sleeper this year, as they return QB Jase Kollar and it looks like they will be building their offense around him. They don't have much of a rushing attack, though, so they are probably too one-dimensional to win too many games this year. They are an improving team, however. Not much to say about the rest of these teams; there aren't really any section title contenders in this group.
Cambridge has to make the always-tricky leap from Class D to Class C this year, so they're a bit of a risky pick this year. But last year's Class D champs return almost everybody this year, and they look to be the most talented team in the class. Although they no longer have the easy weeks against bad D teams, it is worth noting that they were a Class C team earlier in the decade and won the section title twice ('01 and '02). There are other contenders here, but Cambridge looks to be the best team. I believe they return 17 starters from last year's team, including QB Spencer Luke and his cousin Sam at RB. They lost their top WR, Tyler Herrington, but will try to replace him with his two younger brothers.
4. Hoosick Falls
Chatham looks very good this year as well; from what I hear, QB Zach Kraham has looked very impressive in preseason camps. Schuylerville and Hoosick Falls both lost a lot from last year's teams, but both have great programs and should be in the title hunt again this year. They open the season with a matchup at Hoosick that should be great to watch (the two met in the Class C title game last year). I've heard that Watervliet has looked great in the preseason, but their program has a reputation of looking good before the season starts and then faltering during the year. They are a very big team (in size), though, so you can't count them out.
6. Catholic Central
8. Lake George
16. Hoosic Valley
Catholic Central is a lot better this year after a lot of years at the bottom of the class, but they don't quite have enough to be a title contender. Canajoharie also returns some talent, but also doesn't have much history. Lake George looks a little better than they have at times in the past, but they aren't much more than an average team. Mechanicville is lucky to be playing; their football program was almost cut out of the budget this year. Greenwich doesn't quite have the depth necessary to be a good team. Voorheesville is in rebuilding mode after losing a good class last year. This is the first year of football for Hoosic Valley, so they probably won't have a very good team this year.
There are really only two contenders this year, Salem and Fort Edward, with Cambridge back up to Class C. Salem lost some talent from last year, but they always have a good team, and I think they will find a way to win this division again this year. Salem's QB, Matt Flanagan, is only 5'2" tall, but still runs a very good offense.
2. Fort Edward
6. Bishop Gibbons
I wouldn't be surprised to see FE win this division; FE has QB Ryan Carpenter to lead a spread-option offense this coming year. But their line is suspect, and they don't quite have the history that Salem's program does. Junior RB Ryan Black ran for over 1000 yards last year for Warrensburg, but their entire o-line graduated, so they'll hit an adjustment period. Rensselaer has some talent that includes D-1 lineman Kenny Plue (who incedentally also has a TU blog, though I don't know if he'll update it this year), but they're not deep enough to be a top team.
I won't go into any further detail because I don't really know how, but I'll be getting my first taste of the football season tonight. I don't yet know which game(s) I'm going to, but some good games to watch are Schuylerville @ Hoosick Falls, Troy @ Shen, Watervliet @ Cobleskill, Salem @ Cambridge, and CBA vs Henniger (a Sec. 3 team).