In a sport where playbooks are considered sacred, trick plays are kept under wraps, snap counts are sometimes silent and plays are often sent in from the sidelines through hand signals, it is surprising that Section II football teams would agree to share anything with another team or an opponent.
The “Fall II” season, though, has created partnerships among schools to share their turf fields for practices and games.
That’s why Ballston Spa will be awfully familiar with its surroundings when it plays Friday night at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake’s Centennial Field. The Scotties practiced at their rival’s turf field during the preseason before “visiting” the Spartans for their Week 1 game.
“Everything has been different and strange for the last 12 months,” Ballston Spa football coach Greg O’Connor said. “This is just another thing that we have to adapt and make the best out of it.”
The Scotties have three consecutive road games — at Burnt Hills, Scotia-Glenville and Niskayuna — before they hope to play an April 9 home game against Queensbury.
“If our fields are OK, we’re going to play at Ballston Spa,” O’Connor said. “If not, we’ll have home games at Burnt Hills.”
The field cooperation expands past the two Saratoga County Class A schools.
Stillwater has become the go-to turf field for Class D North school’s Cambridge-Salem, Greenwich, Lake George/Hadley-Luzerne and Warrensburg. Class C North will utilize the turf fields at Mechanicville, Fonda-Fultonville and Johnstown. In Class AA, both Niskayuna and Guilderland are using Schenectady’s Larry Mulvaney Field. The lack of turf fields has forced some high school teams to even play Sunday afternoon games.
“It’s been great for our preparation,” Niskayuna coach Brian Grastorf said.
With a laugh, he added of the turf: “It keeps your shoes clean.”
Ballston Spa has the late practice at Burnt Hills. That means the Scotties have been preparing for their season-opening game under the lights.
“It may be an advantage, but the limited practice time cancels that out,” O’Connor said. “We’re trying to be as efficient and organized as we can to get everything we can out of the 120 minutes we have on that turf every night.”