SCHENECTADY — Championships, Schenectady football coach Carm DePoalo tells his team, are built inside the weight room.
Which made preparing for a season without one available, like the Patriots did this past March and April when football was played during a “Fall II” season due to restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, that much more difficult.
And it makes getting ready for the upcoming season, when Schenectady has access to all of its facilities, that much better.
“In the spring, we only had two weeks to prepare,” DePoalo said Tuesday morning as the Patriots went through their second day of preseason workouts. “We had no school. We had no lockers. We weren’t in school, so we couldn’t get in the school. Now that we’ve been in school, I see a much different appearance from the kids.”
That’s a sentiment shared up and down a Schenectady roster that brings back key players across the board from a team that went 3-3 during its “Fall II” campaign.
“It feels great,” senior lineman Jaheim Copeland said. “A few months ago, we didn’t have a lot of time. It was all rushed. Now, I feel like we’re more prepared. Our minds are right, and we’re all working hard. We feel confident going into the season.”
“That spring season was a crazy thing,” added fellow lineman DeVaughn Miller. “Having no weight room, we could really do nothing to get our bodies prepared. Having this extra time is great. We get the team together, and it’s just better for everyone.”
DePoalo said he “wasn’t thrilled with,” his team’s 3-3 record in its most recent season, “but, for spring football, it was OK.”
It wasn’t exactly how the veteran coach had hoped to build on a 6-3 mark from Schenectady’s most recent fall season in 2019, but the somewhat disappointing spring did lead to a renewed sense of energy in the Patriots’ camp during the summer months.
“They gave up time in the summer. They came,” he said. “When you get kids coming in the summer, giving up their own time, that’s great.”
As for DePoalo, he used the offseason to make some tweaks to how he’ll deploy the Patriots on the field this season, which kicks off Sept. 10 against La Salle Institute in a game played on the renovated turf at Larry Mulvaney Field.
DePoalo spent time studying the top programs in Section II Class AA, including the likes of Shenendehowa and Shaker, and is planning to incorporate some of what those teams do into his offensive philosophy.
It’s all part, he said, of continuing the program’s mission of rebounding from the lows of the latter half of the 2010s — including a 1-7 mark in 2017 in the final year before DePoalo returned for his second stint with the Patriots — and reclaiming a spot among the area’s best.
Schenectady did it once before under DePoalo, who previously coached the team in 2007 and 2008, leading the Patriots to a 13-6 mark in those two years and a 2008 Class AA Super Bowl appearance after the team had gone 2-25 in the three seasons prior to his arrival.
Now in the fourth season of his second tenure, DePoalo believes his team is ready to ascend to that upper echelon once again.
“Our goal for our program is to do that,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate in the past where we’ll beat some teams, but we need to step up and beat Shen, beat Shaker, beat CBA. That’s our goal this year is to beat them.”
Manifesting that goal, his players said, is a matter of carrying over their offseason dedication throughout the fall.
“We have to come together, work together,” Miller said. “Make practices, don’t miss time. It’s a team thing, and we have to buy into that.”
“If we work hard enough,” quarterback Nick Sanchez said, “we’ll get what we’ve wanted for the past couple years.”