On multiple occasions as the Amsterdam football team went through practice Monday afternoon at Lynch Literacy Academy, first-year head coach John Homich expressed to his offense a straightforward goal for Friday’s season-opener against Albany.
The first time the Rams get the ball, they want to board the express train to the end zone — less than a minute, if possible.
After all, haven’t they waited long enough?
Senior quarterback Tommy Ziskin certainly agrees.
“It’s been almost a year-and-a-half since the last time we’ve been out here,” Ziskin said. “It’s just great to be back.”
A whole lot has changed since Amsterdam’s last game, a 14-7 crossover loss to Scotia-Glenville on Nov. 1, 2019 that capped off a 5-4 season.
Doug Edick stepped away from his head coaching duties after eight seasons, with Homich — who has coached at every level of the Amsterdam program — appointed as the new varsity coach in February 2020.
The Rams’ home turf was completely resurfaced among a number of improvements to the Lynch athletic complex.
Oh, and the entire New York high school football season was delayed six months to the “Fall II” period due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s made for an odd transition, especially for players like Ziskin, who over the weekend completed his shortened winter season with the Amsterdam boys’ basketball team. Monday was the first full day devoted to football for the senior and several others who spent the last six weeks devoted to basketball.
“There’s no place I’d rather be than out here,” Ziskin said. “It feels great to be out here full-time again.”
Since its run to a Section II Class A championship and a state semifinal berth in 2015, Amsterdam has gone just 18-18 over its last four seasons, missing the area playoffs in 2017 and 2018. The program started to regain momentum in 2019, starting 5-2 and returning to the playoffs before ending the year with back-to-back losses.
The next era starts Friday at 5 p.m. against Albany in the kickoff to an abbreviated, seven-week Section II season.
For Ziskin, Homich taking as head coach feels like a high school career coming full circle. When Amsterdam’s current seniors were freshmen, Homich was the program’s junior varsity coach.
“This a group that we’ve had together since our freshman year,” Ziskin said. “Coach Homich was our JV coach back then. To see it all come together, it’s going to be fun to see what happens.”
Ziskin, a second-year starter at quarterback, said he’s excited to be back in command of an Amsterdam offense that may have lost 1,300-yard rusher Peyton Ausfeld to graduation, but returns all five starters across the offensive line as well as key skill players including Josiah Newborn, Xavier Acevedo, Dylan Alicea, Matt Hughes and Garrett McHeard.
Homich is also anticipating several younger players to make immediate impacts.
“We have a lot of youth, a lot of sophomores and some of our juniors that came back out to play again, stepping up to the plate to play for us,” Homich said. “We were able to bring Ceasar Thompson back into the program, we’re looking for big things out of him, and obviously with the returning guys — Josiah Newborn, Dylan Alicea, Matt Hughes, Xavier Acevedo — we’re excited to get them going.”
Homich said that the guiding philosophy of Amsterdam football — controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and establishing the run game on offense — won’t change under his leadership, but the new coach did coyly hint toward some new wrinkles in the way things are done.
“I don’t want to give out too much,” he said, “but Friday night’s going to be exciting.
“Hopefully, people get excited watching us.”