JOHNSTOWN — Old school is about to be new again for the Johnstown football team.
In his first year as the Sir Bills’ head coach, Paul Furman — an Amsterdam graduate and former long-time assistant coach at his alma mater — is making some tweaks that will make his new team in purple look an awful lot like his old one used to.
Furman, who served as an assistant at Johnstown during the team’s 2-3 campaign in its “Fall II” season this past March and April, was named the Sir Bills’ head coach when Tyler Hall got a teaching job in the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District after serving as Johnstown’s head coach for five seasons.
In building his staff, Furman recruited a number of familiar Amsterdam faces, including offensive coordinator Bob Noto.
Noto, a member of the Capital Region Football Hall of Fame, was an Amsterdam assistant for more than three decades and the right-hand man of former Rams head coach Pat Liverio, running the offense from 1996 to 2011 for a program that racked up six Section II Class A championships and the 2005 state title.
With Furman and Noto comes a switch from the spread offense that Johnstown’s favored in recent years to a pro style offense based around the I-formation.
“It’s definitely something that’s familiar in the area,” Furman said. “The I-formation was here for a very long time here in Johnstown, and a lot of other schools in the area. I know some of the old-timers and the alumni, there’s been some talk and they’re excited to have the I-formation back here in Johnstown.”
It’s a change that Sir Bills quarterback Bryce Mureness said that the team has embraced throughout its offseason program.
“It’s really different,” Mureness said. “It took some time to get used to, but me and the other quarterback are getting it down.”
A two-way lineman as a player who lined up alongside future NFL player Josh Beekman during his high school days, Furman is focused on building his Johnstown program in much the same way as Amsterdam’s most successful teams were built — from the trenches.
While the Sir Bills don’t have a lot of size along the line, Furman said the group’s overall athleticism suits itself nicely to an offensive scheme that’s heavy on pulling and trapping to get blockers out in space.
“We don’t have a typical, big, 230-pound offensive line in front of us,” he said. “We’re not going to square up and just drive people down the field. We have a group of guys that are very tenacious, they want to get after it and they really enjoy the style of offense that we’re implementing here. We’re running an offense where there’s a lot of different pulling, trapping and pinning; we’re moving the offensive line, and they’re enjoying that. It fits right into their build. They’re fast kids.”
Through the offseason and early days of preseason practice, Furman’s new players are embracing the new coaching staff’s philosophy.
“The energy that they bring sort of brings the energy for the team,” senior linebacker Ethan Petrie said.
“It’s nice. It’s a fresh start,” Mureness said. “I think everyone’s loving it right now.”
Furman is relishing his long-awaited chance to lead his own program, and is eagerly anticipating the product the Sir Bills will put out on the field when they open up Sept. 3 against rival Gloversville.
“To be honest, for me, this is a long time coming and I’m very happy to be out here with this team and see what we have as a whole package,” he said. “We did a lot of voluntary workouts and a lot of voluntary practices, but we didn’t have everybody together all at once. Everybody was on vacation, or doing different things during the summer. It’s exciting to see the whole, entire group and really get a look at what we have as a whole package.”