High school football: Plainsmen want to have special season for Steuerwald

This season could be Shenendehowa head football coach Brent Steuerwald’s swan song, and if you read

This season could be Shenendehowa head football coach Brent Steuerwald’s swan song, and if you read between the lines, the legendary Plainsmen mentor wants to go out a winner.

Steuerwald, who held the first of two opening-day practices at Brent T. Steuerwald Stadium Monday morning, believes he could have one of the most talented teams in his

44-year run with the Plainsmen. He hasn’t lost any of his unmatched enthusiasm preparing for another title run.

“Absolutely. I’m extremely excited,” said the 76-year-old Steuerwald, whose amazing resume includes a sparkling 307-90-4 record with 25 league championships and 10 Section II titles. “The kids are the same age. I’ve got to stay young just to be around them, and it’s a new experience every year.”

Despite numerous rumors and a few published reports early this summer, Steuerwald wouldn’t discuss the possibility that this could be his last hurrah, but you got the sense as he directed the rainy practice session that a special announcement could come sometime early in the season.

“I’m trying not to consider that, right now. I’ll live for today. For most of these kids out here, this is their senior season, and I want them to focus on that,” he said.

Yet the players are fully aware that a possible Steuerwald finale would have historic significance.

“We’ve all heard the rumors,” said senior running back Tony Fusco. “We want to win for him and make it special for him if it is his last year. He’s a great coach and a great guy. He doesn’t act old. He acts more like a young kid.”

The Plainsmen, who were 7-3 a year ago, ended the 2010 campaign with a bitter loss, a 38-0 shutout by Troy in the Section II Class AA Super Bowl. Troy has dropped down to the Class A level this season, and most scholastic football experts pick the Plainsmen to be the kings of the hill this time around.

“I hope all of them are right,” Steuerwald said with a grin. “If all goes well, we could be this year’s Troy. Speed is a factor, and we have excellent overall speed. In the early 2000s, we went four years with just one loss, and it was always in the last game of the season. Maybe this is the start of another good run for us.”

One department Steuerwald wants to improve is on defense, where the Plainsmen haven’t been as dominant in recent years.

“We hope to remedy that,” he said. “We will work hard on that every day. Every day is a new adventure. We will have 25-plus practices before the season begins. This group is already ahead of last year’s in terms of what we are doing.”

Steuerwald said that while last year’s team included novice linemen on both sides of the ball, this year’s group will be much more experienced, especially if talented Mark Thomas can stay healthy.

“Mark’s health problems are not football-related, but if he can stay healthy, we will be a much better team,” he said.”

“We are all excited,” said Fusco. “We had successful offseason work at some clinics and at the UAlbany camp, and hopefully, we are ready to go. We have a bitter taste in our mouth after losing to Troy in the championship game last year, but we’ve got a great team coming back. We did lose Bronson Greene [the team’s top runner] to graduation, but we have a lot of juniors who will step up.”

When and if Steuerwald announces his retirement this fall, it will mark the end of one of the most remarkable coaching careers in Section II history. A member of both the Shenendehowa High School and Capital Region Football Hall of Fame, Steuerwald was one of the architects of the state high school playoff system. He has received numerous coach of the year honors and earned the 2010 Power of Influence Award from the Amer­ican Football Coaches Assoc­iation.

Shenendehowa opens the season Sept. 2 with Bethlehem.

Categories: High School Sports

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