When he was named Amsterdam’s football coach in February 2020, John Homich held a 90-minute meeting with his incoming roster, during which he and his coaching staff outlined their vision for the program.
“The guys bought into it right away,” Homich said during a phone interview Monday. “They were really motivated for this season.”
It’s just taken some time for that season to finally come around.
Nearly 13 months since Homich was named as the successor to Doug Edick, after a postponed fall season and an offseason limited to virtual meetings and socially-distanced parking lot workouts, Homich finally got to take charge of his full squad of Rugged Rams.
Practice for the “Fall II” sports season, made up of sports that got pushed back from their original spot on the calendar due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, got underway this week. Sunday, Homich held his first official team meeting and walkthrough session. Monday, Amsterdam went “full steam ahead” as the team prepares to open its seven-week season March 19 against Albany.
“I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning,” Homich said. “This is something we’ve been waiting on for a long time. We’ve been chomping at the bit. We’re excited to finally get things going, because, for a while, we were very unclear as to what was going to happen, especially with the [COVID-19] numbers going up and down like they were.”
After all the time away, it didn’t take too long for football to feel like second nature again.
“They were mentally focused,” Homich said. “It was nice to see everything, finally, live today. Every kid was jelling together.”
Now that he’s finally got his team on the field, Homich doesn’t have much time to waste.
Instead of a full offseason program of weightlifting, team camps and 7-on-7 programs ahead of two weeks of preseason practice and a scrimmage before the opening week, the first-year head coach has less than two weeks to get the Rugged Rams to tune up for their opener.
“We’re trying to balance the schedule right now,” he said, “making sure we have everything we need to be ready for that first week. It’s a little hectic.”
Homich said his job was made easier right off the bat with experience at several key spots — most prominently in the trenches.
All five of Amsterdam’s starters along the offensive line from 2019 — Alejandro Christopher, James Shatas, Dainon Aviles, Christian Robinson and Alex Simon — return for this season and will be the group that Homich predicts will be the catalyst for whatever success the team can have this spring.
“Our philosophy is that everything starts with our foundation,” Homich said, “and our foundation this year is our offensive line. Having that entire group back is a huge plus for us. Every guy on that line, and practically any one of our linemen, they’ve been acting like leaders since we started our offseason program.”
The Rams’ overall numbers are solid; Homich said the team opened practice with a 40-player varsity group. That’s a bump from several years of lagging participation, and includes a number of sophomores brought onto the varsity team with the district not offering junior varsity football during the “Fall II” period.
“They were guys where we didn’t really want them to lose a year of football,” Homich said. “But, looking at them and evaluating them as a coaching staff, we really felt like they could make an impact for us at the varsity level this year. They’ll have a role.”
When Amsterdam opens its season, the team will be playing on the brand-new artificial turf field at Lynch Literacy Academy. The turf was replaced last year as part of a capital project that included a facelift for the Lynch athletic complex.
Had the football season been played in the fall, Amsterdam’s teams would not have been able to use Lynch for home games, as renovations were not complete. Before the decision was made to postpone football and other “high” risk fall sports to the “Fall II” season, Amsterdam had planned to hold its home games at Gloversville.
“It’s a beautiful facility,” Homich said. “It felt good to be on that new turf, seeing the stands redone.
“We’re hoping to get back to that environment again.”