FORT EDWARD — For two football programs in survival mode, distance is no matter for the opportunity to keep the sport alive.
Corinth and Fort Edward, two teams that struggled with low numbers in recent years, have joined forces in an ambitious merger of blue-collar towns separated by 16 miles of winding Hudson River. It has has been called a temporary merger, until both programs are back on their feet.
Everything is new for Corinth-Fort Edward. There’s a new nickname — the Warhawks — and a colorful logo that incorporates Fort Edward blue and Corinth black and orange.
The travel is new, too, as the team alternates practice sites each week. They will have four home games, two at each school.
There’s also a new coach, as Brian Bowe joins Fort Edward’s Jeff Tully as co-head coaches of the C-FE varsity. Bowe, a former Granville assistant, swapped places with former Corinth head coach Justin Culligan.
Bowe and Tully are also both Buffalo Bills fans.
“I walk in the first day, (Tully) has a Bills chain on — I’m like, ‘This is going to work,’” Bowe said with a laugh.
Even better — there are 37 players on the Warhawks’ roster, enough to also field a junior varsity.
“It’s nice to have numbers and depth, as well, and build competition among the kids, and the kids have come together really well,” Tully said. “The kids have started to enjoy the camaraderie and the brotherhood of it.”
“The first day we got together, you see (groups of) Fort Edward, you see (groups of) Corinth,” Bowe said. “Now it’s like, they’re all together and talking more in their positional groups.”
Going to practice means a week of traveling a half-hour by bus to the other school, something that each set of players experienced in preseason.
“I think it brings more accountability throughout the team, because they have to make it for the bus before practice even starts, they have to make sure equipment’s ready,” Bowe said. “It makes kids create a routine, responsibility to get to school on time so we can get everyone here.”
Practice time is crucial for a team with a large percentage of players learning a new offense and defense. Corinth struggled to an 0-9 record last season, while Fort Edward went 3-5, including a 26-20 win over Corinth in a crossover game.
Quarterback: Colby Phillips, who quarterbacked Fort Edward the last two seasons, made a position switch to center in training camp. That allows Fort Edward junior Brody Sullivan to take over at QB in the Warhawks’ offense, which will be a run-oriented wing-T out of a shotgun formation.
“He’s really smart, he has a good football IQ, he retains information, he’s very coachable, he’s worked on his agility,” Tully said. “He’s a dual-threat kid and he’s stepped up as a leader.”
Backs and receivers: Robby Benson and Gabe Allen, both Corinth athletes, bring speed to the running back spots. Fort Edward athletes Will Denton and Ashton Sullivan were getting looks at receiver, and Ghrady Havens returns at tight end.
Offensive line: C-FE will have a solid group of linemen, with the 230-pound Phillips taking over at center, flanked by guards Austin Clear and Connor Smith. Smith missed last season at Corinth with an injury. Ed Amell, Dan Tracy and Dylan Jenks may rotate at tackle.
Defense: Bowe, the Warhawks’ defensive coordinator, plans to keep the 4-4 defense simple and aggressive, with plenty of room to make plays.
Havens and Smith are the likely defensive ends, with Clear, Amell, Jenks and big Isaiah Kanar battling for time up front. Brody Sullivan, Benson and Anthony Torra could rotate at outside linebacker, while Allen, Phillips and Tracy vying for the inside spots. Denton returns at safety, with Damian Meade, Ashton Sullivan and Mike Taylor in a rotation at cornerback. Allen led Corinth in tackles last season, as did Denton at Fort Edward.
“We should have a lot of speed on defense, especially in the secondary,” Bowe said. “We have a ton of defensive linemen. We could get a rotation so guys stay fresh and platoon an offensive line and a defensive line.”
Outlook: With excellent numbers and the athleticism of the players, C-FE is optimistic for some success this season. The Warhawks are a Class C team, but they opted to play an independent schedule against mostly Class D schools this season.
“If we stay healthy, we have the numbers to actually do stuff in practice, 11 on 11 or 7-on-7 passing,” Bowe said. “If we can keep up the intensity and keep picking it up as we go along, I think we can be a shocker in some games this year. I think the kids are starting to see that — ‘We’ve got something here, guys.’”