Class AA football teams have new scheduling due to expansion

It will be business as usual, sort of, when Schenectady hosts Albany in a Week 4 Class AA football g
Shenendehowa coach Brian Clawson is glad his team is opening its season tonight with a crossover game.
Shenendehowa coach Brian Clawson is glad his team is opening its season tonight with a crossover game.

It will be business as usual, sort of, when Schenectady hosts Albany in a Week 4 Class AA football game.

“We’ll approach it like it means something,” Schen­ectady coach Mark Cerrone said of the one-game break in the Patriots’ Liberty Division schedule. “We’re not going to take the week off by any means, but at the same time, we could use that to get some guys rest, or we could use it to get some guys time. You’ve got to see where your team is at. It could be an opportunity to put in new stuff. It depends on the vibe of the team.”

Class AA teams in Section II will have several things to weigh this fall in their crossover games, which will be spread over the regular season due to expansion in the large-school league.

Niskayuna and Troy moving this season from Class A to Class AA has changed each division from six teams to seven for the first time since 2010. Niskayuna has joined the Empire Division and Troy, a Class A finalist in 2015, has joined the Liberty Division.

Niskayuna spent the last two seasons at the Class A level. Troy had been a Class A member since 2011.

“Each game in each season possesss its own set of questions,” Guilderland coach Dan Penna said. “How do you gauge that crossover? You’re going to have some days where some kids could use a rest. At the same time, you don’t want to stumble. When you have so few games . . . “

The schedule sets up each team for its six division games and one crossover.

“It all has to do with odd and even,” Christian Brothers Academy coach Joe Burke said of the crossover schedule. “In the past, when we had an even number of teams [in each div­ision], we put the crossovers in Week 1 and 2, and we always had an even number of teams playing each other [in Weeks 3-7]. Now that it’s odd, we had to do it.”

An intriguing Week 6 crossover game will have four-time defending Liberty champ Shaker traveling to 2015 state finalist Saratoga Springs.

“The committee did a nice job trying to match up teams based on where they were last year, find games that would be competitive and carry on some traditions,” Penna said.

Schenectady notched its only win last year against Albany in a crossover matching old Big 10 rivals.

“In years past, when we were on our run, we crossed over with Shenendehowa,” Cerrone said. “If that was the case, I would not have been happy. They tried to balance it out and, although we have a good rivalry with Niskayuna, too, I’m not complaining.”

Shenendehowa goes to Troy tonight for a crossover matching programs with a combined 19 Section II championships. The teams last met in the 2010 Class AA title game, which Troy won on its way to the state final.

“That worked in our favor,” Shenendehowa coach Brian Clawson said of playing a crossover right off the bat. “Not in the sense because we’re playing Troy, because they’re a great opponent, but I’d prefer to play [our non-league opponent] in Week 1.”

It’s an enviable position which Shenendehowa and Troy will use as a prep for division play.

“Everybody wants to be sharp the first week,” Burke said. “Guys who get a crossover early — it’s not a practice game — you can make some mistakes and you won’t hurt your standing.”

Cerrone said mid-season crossovers can be trap games for an unprepared team.

“It’s Week 4 and say we’re on a run,” Cerrone said as an example. “The kids decide it doesn’t mean anything, we don’t do our job as coaches, and we perform horribly. Trying to bounce back with high school kids is tough.”

Clawson agreed.

“It’s unfortunate that those games don’t count for the playoffs,” he said. “If you get it in the middle of the season, you don’t want to approach it any different than you would a regular game.”

Niskayuna goes to Colonie for a Week 2 crossover, and Bethlehem travels to Ballston Spa with new coach Ray Toohey in Week 3.

“Same approach,” said Niskayuna coach John Furey, who is retiring after the season. “Once you play sub-par, it’s not easy to recover. I don’t look at a crossover game differently than a division game. You get seven opportunities to play football and you play your hardest.”

One of Furey’s more memorable crossover wins came against Empire champ Ballston Spa in 2010. One of Penna’s most significant crossover victories came back in 2013 against a Shaker team riding a long win streak.

“It was in week four or five and we won in overtime,” Penna said. “That was a big win. They hadn’t lost in Section II in 15 games. That was a big momentum builder.”

Guilderland plays at Columbia in Week 5, and CBA hosts LaSalle Institute in Week 7.

“It’s a great spot for that game,” Burke said the final Friday crossover of the regular season. “There are two pieces. Hopefully, you’re in the playoffs. You know you can’t have a letdown, and it’s easier because they’re your rival.

“If not [in the playoffs], you can still have a good week because guys get fired up for their rival.”

Categories: High School Sports

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