Amsterdam football gets back on the gridiron after rough ‘Fall II’ campaign

Amsterdam running back Garrett McHeard carries the ball during an April 9 game at Averill Park High School.

Amsterdam running back Garrett McHeard carries the ball during an April 9 game at Averill Park High School.

The rescheduled “Fall II” season this past March and April was particularly rough on the Amsterdam football team. A scheduled opener scrapped by quarantine protocols brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic, then five losses in five games — the last three coming by a heartbreaking combined total of seven points.

Luckily, head coach John Homich said, the Rugged Rams didn’t have to wait long to get back on the horse and try again.

“We ended the season with a bad taste in our mouth,” Homich, who is entering his second season as head coach, said in a phone interview Monday evening after Amsterdam wrapped up its first day of practice. “We used that to help propel us this offseason to make things right, make the changes we needed to make. It really motivated the guys to be better. Today was a step in the right direction.”

Practices for fall high school sports opened across Section II on Monday under the specter of rising numbers of cases of the novel coronavirus.

During the 2020-21 academic year, “high” risk fall sports — including football — were not permitted to take place during their regular position in the calendar, moving instead to an abbreviated “Fall II” season held during March and April. This school year, sports are currently moving forward without such restrictions in place at a state- or section-wide level, though individual districts are putting forth their own requirements for COVID-19 testing, masking and vaccination.

Greater Amsterdam School District athletic director Steve Nolan said that the district is currently not permitting media to attend practices for any Amsterdam teams.

After their difficult spring, Homich said his team showed renewed enthusiasm over the offseason to get the program back on track, with a veteran corps led by two-way linemen Christian Robinson and Alex Simon helping to lead the charge.

“We saw huge strides made in their agility, their strength and their football IQ,” Homich said. “It really showed today. Practice was pretty crisp. It was nice getting back on the field.”

This season is the first that teams are permitted to schedule a “Week 0” game after the second week of practices — the weekend of Sept. 3-4 — but Amsterdam won’t be taking part. Instead, the Rams will go on the road for a scrimmage with New Hartford, the alma mater of former Amsterdam coach Doug Edick, as the tune-up for their Sept. 10 season opener at South Glens Falls.

With Amsterdam skipping out on an official game on “Week 0,” the team is only scheduled to play two games in the entire month of September. The Rams’ bye week — necessitated by an odd number of teams in Section II Class A — is set for Week 2, and while Homich said his team is open to finding an opponent for the Sept. 17-18 weekend, they haven’t locked a game down yet.

Amsterdam is on the road against Columbia in Week 3 and won’t play its first home game until Oct. 2 against Averill Park, starting a three-game homestand.

Given the hectic nature of how things went during “Fall II,” Homich is more than happy to take as much time as the Rams need to get things right this time around.

“We finally have a full offseason,” he said. “We really had a chance to install and take our time with our offensive and defensive plans. We’re excited to see it come to a head.”

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

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