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High School Football Season Preview

High School Football 2021: Teams return from short turnaround

From the Prep Roundup: Game reports, photos and news from high school sports series
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After a most unusual 2020 season — delayed and played this past spring because of the coronavirus pandemic — the 2021 high school football season kicks off in earnest this weekend.

Teams only had to wait about four months before getting back on the field this season.

“The kids came in in about the same shape as always,” said Kurt Conduzio, Glens Falls’ first-year head coach. “But what I noticed was the kids retained a lot more from last season — they remembered how practice is supposed to go, they remembered what to do. The kids that came out picked up right where we left off.”

Glens Falls was one of few local teams to take advantage of the new Week 0 option last weekend. Football teams can now choose to play either a non-league game or a scrimmage on the weekend that used to be reserved for preseason scrimmages.

There was some confusion over last weekend’s games: Section II is counting them as non-league games instead of as preseason games as had been previously noted, so Glens Falls is already 1-0 after its 43-22 win over South Glens Falls.

However, the Indians do not have a game this week because their opponent, Green Tech, is on a coronavirus pause. Lake George and Granville also have no games this weekend because of their own COVID quarantines.

Lake George, which had played with Hadley-Luzerne as a merger partner since 2014, pulled out of an approved merger with Corinth and H-L in June, as players expressed their desire to compete as their own team.

Also, Whitehall backed out of a planned merger with Granville in an effort to rebuild its program. The Railroaders will field a JV team this fall.

For the first time since 1929, Fort Edward will not field a varsity or JV football team. Athletes from Fort Edward, which had been merged with Corinth the last two seasons, will now play with South Glens Falls.

Queensbury

Coach: Matt Crossman, fifth season (27-9).

Class: A

Outlook: The Spartans had a frustrating 2-3 Fall II season, and their fall schedule is certainly challenging — they open at Class AA Shenendehowa on Friday night. However, coach Matt Crossman said it will only make them better and battle-tested by sectionals in a wide-open Class A race. Queensbury lost a game-breaking running back in Jason Rodriguez, its No. 2 rusher all-time, and must rebuild its offensive backfield. Sophomore Ian Reynolds was the leading candidate at quarterback. Queensbury lacks some of the size it has had over the years — only two 280-pounders (Danny Collins and Gaetano Altare) and one 240-pounder (Deondre Guignard) tip the scales at more than 225. The Spartans’ defense may be ahead of the offense to start, with eight returning starters, including Dan Conway and Michael Kilgallon at the ends, and Trey Bailey and Aiden Bleibtrey on the corners.

South Glens Falls

Coach: Matt Howard, third season (5-9).

Class: A.

Outlook: The Bulldogs, who now include Fort Edward athletes on their roster, still have low numbers, but coach Matt Howard said they have some top-tier talent as they try to build on a 3-2 record. Senior running back/linebacker Josh Ahrens is South High’s best athlete, a weightroom junkie with a high motor and outstanding football IQ who leads by example. Senior Trey Marcil returns as a dual-threat quarterback, and sophomore Quyntin Fallen brings a ton of speed and playmaking ability. Anthony Torra, a Fort Edward addition, joins the Bulldogs as an offensive lineman and linebacker, bringing a strong work ethic, football savvy and competitiveness to the team. Brandin Luman is another new athlete to fill a receiver and defensive back spot. Howard said the Bulldogs will be competitive and plan to make a playoff push, but depth is a concern, and only a few players showed up from Fort Edward.

Glens Falls

Coach: Kurt Conduzio, first season.

Class: B.

Outlook: The Indians finished 4-1 as runner-up to Schalmont in Class B, coming up just short in a 29-28 loss in the spring finale. Pat Lilac, Glens Falls’ coach for the last 20 years, is taking the season off to watch son Max play for South High, so longtime assistant Kurt Conduzio steps in as just the fourth head coach of the Indians in the last 60 seasons. Glens Falls lost a lot of skill players to graduation, like QB Noah Girard and receivers Jackson Brand and Aalijah Sampson, so replacing them will be key. The offense will be powered by fourth-year running back Griffin Woodell, a key playmaker on both sides of the ball. Junior Carson Rath, a second-generation Indians QB, takes over behind center in Glens Falls’ spread attack, with some less-experienced targets, like Greg Frandsen and Aidan Murphy. Cole Bennett and Greg Breault return up front to lead the line, and both return on defense as well. Woodell, Breault and Gavin Williams form a superb linebacking corps. Conduzio said the Indians should be very competitive in Class B, and led by their running game.

Hudson Falls

Coach: Brett Watkins, second season (0-5).

Class: B.

Outlook: The Tigers endured a rough spring, going 0-5 and scoring only 32 points in a short season disrupted by injuries and quarantines. However, second-year coach Brett Watkins returns his entire offensive and defensive lines this fall, so the Tigers’ new skill players — mostly sophomores and juniors — will have room to run and throw as they hope to bounce back. Many of the young players got varsity experience in the spring because of injuries, so there is depth, especially up front. Seniors Evan Kwasniewski and Cam Washburn return as third-year starters up front, though Washburn was injured part of the spring. Cody Lewis returns as a two-way starter and also handles the placekicking. Will Coon takes over at quarterback in the Tigers’ spread offense, with Jesse Mullis and Nate Jackson the top candidates to carry the pigskin. Watkins said the team will go as far as their veteran line can take them.

Corinth/Hadley-Luzerne

Coach: Brian Bowe, third season (8-7).

Class: C.

Outlook: As the Corinth-Fort Edward Warhawks, the team finished 3-3 last spring, including a last-minute 14-12 victory over Hudson Falls in the finale. Now, they are the Corinth/Hadley-Luzerne Mountaineers. Brian Bowe, who was co-head coach for C-FE, brings the double-wing offense — run by Queensbury and Granville — to the Mountaineers. Senior Colin Berg, who played receiver for LG/H-L in the spring, takes over at quarterback and as a team captain for his new club. Devin Robarge looks to continue his spring production at running back, joined in the backfield by Charles Cheney and newcomer Logan Westervelt. Big senior Colby Ross and junior Skylar Williamson, another former LG/H-L WarEagle, are the ends, while fourth-year veteran David White anchors both lines. With low overall numbers, all of those players will also start on defense, with Berg, Robarge and Williamson forming a formidable linebacking corps. Bowe said the Mountaineers’ young offensive line was improving in camp, and their success depends on young players stepping up.

Schuylerville

Coach: John Bowen, ninth season (64-17, 121-51 overall).

Class: C.

Outlook: The Black Horses were the Section II champs in Class C last spring, rolling uncontested through six opponents, then topping Hoosick Falls-Tamarac 34-15 in the title game. Veteran coach John Bowen must replace a pair of standouts in Jack Dwyer and Sam McGarrahan, who accounted for about 85 percent of Schuylerville’s offense last spring. Jack Koval and Lucas Woodcock left huge holes up front on both lines, but the Horses can build around veterans Carson Patrick and Ryan Peck. Senior Owen Sherman returns for his third season at quarterback, sparking the Horses with his ability to stretch plays and throw on the run to athletes like Carter Phillips and Otto Bolduc. Zach Bowen moves from the line to join Ryan Dow and Nick Abruscato in the offensive backfield. Dow and Abruscato bring a blend of intelligence and physicality to both sides of the ball, and Zach Bowen will anchor the defensive line at one end. While their numbers are down again, John Bowen believes the Horses can win with the group they have, as long as they stay healthy. Schuylerville tuned up with a 45-0 rout of Hudson last week.

Cambridge-Salem

Coach: Doug Luke, 24th season (211-37).

Class: D.

Outlook: The Indians got a taste of losing last spring, “and none of us liked it, players or coaches,” longtime head coach Doug Luke said. It was the first losing season for the Cambridge program since 2008, only its second since 1990. Most of the team returns in much better shape after taking its licks in March and April. Sophomore Brice Burr takes over at quarterback, with solid targets in juniors Alex Luke and Andrew Clark. Burr should be well-protected by a veteran line that includes some good size, with several players at 230 pounds or more, like Evan Day (245) and Hunter Thomas (285), and all getting plenty of experience in the spring. Cambridge-Salem also has some depth at running back, with Eli Danio and Connor Chilson returning, along with Dillon Hughes, Mike Riche, Clifford Lewis and Zach Miller. Defensive positions were up in the air in preseason, but most players will play both sides of the ball and the defensive line should be solid, with Day, Rylie Burr, and Hunter and Jackson Thomas.

Granville

Coach: John Irion, fourth season (11-14, 172-102-1 overall).

Class: D.

Outlook: The Golden Horde lost several standout athletes to graduation from a squad that went 2-4 in Class C last spring under interim coach Terry Wheeler. Now in Class D, veteran coach John Irion returns to the helm and sees great potential for a strong season. Alex Torres and R.J. Monger were battling for the quarterback job. The offensive line will rebuild around seniors Nate Rathbun and Skyler Schinski, as well as Kevin Morris, a big, powerful lineman who returns after a few years at a Vermont private school. Junior Matt Barlow and Nick Crum are in the mix as new running backs, but several younger players are pushing them. Defensively, Dylan Procella returns to the line, and Alex Warrington moves from defensive end to middle linebacker. Tommy McMahon and Bryce Norton are returning veterans who will help in the secondary. Irion said he likes this team’s work ethic and is optimistic for rapid improvement as the season unfolds.

Greenwich

Coach: Brandon Linnett, 15th season (87-42).

Class: D.

Outlook: The Witches were the de facto Class D champions last season, rolling to a 6-0 record by dominating their competition with an explosive offense and stifling defense. Not much has changed for Greenwich, which returns most of its weapons from last spring, led by senior quarterback Jesse Kuzmich. Kuzmich, a second-generation Witches standout, is a complete dual-threat QB and a leader who gets his team in the best position to be successful. Deontae Bennett, a transfer from Saratoga last spring, has game-breaking speed and a nose for the ball. The Witches will also benefit from a strong running game, keyed by returning backs Aiden McPhail, Jayden Hughes and sophomore Matt Conlin, who was a power-runner as a freshman last year. Paving the way for Greenwich’s offense will be a veteran line led by four-year starter Gavin Blair, Ethan Banfield and Jackson Javurek. With depth always a concern at the Class D level, most of the Witches’ starters will play both ways. Staying healthy will be a key and will determine how far this team can go.

Lake George

Coach: Zac Kozersky, second season (5-2).

Class: D.

Outlook: The Warriors move forward after their contentious split from the Corinth/Lake George/Hadley-Luzerne merger that made Lake George a standalone varsity team for the first time since 2013. As LG/H-L last spring, the WarEagles performed well under first-year coach Zac Kozersky, going 5-0 before losing to Greenwich and Granville. The graduation of quarterback Cole Clarke is a huge loss. However, the Warriors have an outstanding athlete in junior Brody McCabe to take over behind center, and he brings great skills, intelligence and leadership to the position. He also has an outstanding target in senior speedster Brendan Lamby and a veteran running back in Matthew Johnson. Four of five starters return up front, including Andrew Jeckel, Alek Elkins and Max Dickinson.

Warrensburg

Coach: Mike Perrone, sixth season (29-13).

Class: D.

Outlook: The Burghers, who continue with their merger with North Warren and Bolton, went 1-2 in a tough spring season, with games canceled by coronavirus protocols. They did grind out a 16-7 victory over Cambridge-Salem in the finale. They also welcome back 2019 Class D Offensive MVP Dylan Winchell, who moved back from Tennessee. Now a senior, Winchell has added 20 pounds of muscle and brings outstanding speed to the offensive backfield, which includes hard-running Landon Olden. Junior Tristen Hitchcock (6-1, 250) is a big, smart, physical fullback-linebacker who has started both ways since eighth grade. Andrew Beadnell returns at tight end to give new sophomore QB Caden Allen a reliable target. Cooper Morehouse, Thomas Combs and Hunter Nemec all return up front. Beadnell and Morehouse are both North Warren athletes. Several players also return to the program after taking time off from football or not playing last season, giving Warrensburg a boost in depth, speed and athleticism. The Burghers, who won Section II titles in 2018 and 2019, hope to contend with the likes of Greenwich, Cambridge-Salem and Chatham.

Ticonderoga

Coach: Heath Geiser, first season.

League: Champlain Valley.

Outlook: Former assistant coach Heath Geiser takes over a Sentinels program with some rebuilding to do for a team that played only one game last spring because of low participation numbers. One positive Geiser noted was having a returning quarterback in Kameron Vigliotti to build around. Owen Stonitsch and Connor Yaw return to the backfield. Varsity newcomers Kaleb Gijanto and Mason Tuthill should help solidify the line, and big things are expected from new safety Jacob LaRose. The Sentinels have holes to fill at linebacker, but Geiser said he has found the players for the job. Geiser expects the team to be very competitive this season, but they will need to stay healthy throughout.

Follow Pete Tobey on Twitter @PTobeyPSVarsity.

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Covering high school and minor-league sports in Section II since 1989. SUNY Plattsburgh grad. Colleen's lesser half. Three amazing young people call me Dad. Fan of Philadelphia Eagles, New York Rangers and Mets, and Syracuse Orange.

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