As much as they can, Amsterdam football coach John Homich said, the Rugged Rams are putting their “Fall II” season out of sight and out of mind.
“We pretty much buried last season,” Homich said.
Little went right for Amsterdam during its 0-5 campaign when the season was moved to March and April due to restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic. A pandemic-related pause forced the team to cancel its season opener against Albany, and what followed were five straight losses, with the final three coming by a grand total of seven points — including two decided by plays in the final seconds of regulation.
There were lessons learned from his first season as varsity coach, Homich said, but as Amsterdam prepares to open its season Sept. 10 at South Glens Falls, the focus is firmly on the present and future.
“That’s the only thing we can control right now,” Homich said. “We learned from our mistakes in the past, and that’s about it. The Fall II season is behind us. We don’t dwell on it any more.”
Several key faces from the spring are gone, including starting quarterback Tommy Ziskin, two-way lineman James Shatas, linebacker Alejandro Christopher and wide receiver Josiah Newborn, who broke the state’s single-game reception record in Amsterdam’s 41-40 loss to Averill Park.
However, it was largely a young team on the field during the Rams’ Fall II campaign, and there are plenty of talented contributors in the fold.
Leading the way are the team’s anchors up front, senior linemen Christian Robinson and Alex Simon, both of whom have been starters since their freshman seasons. Garrett McHeard gives Amsterdam a 240-pound battering ram at running back while providing a dynamic force as a hybrid linebacker and defensive end on the other side of the ball.
On the outside, a deep group of receivers will be led by Ceasar Thompson, Louie Gonzalez and Xavier Acevedo.
The biggest question mark remains at quarterback, where Jhai Vellon — who saw some action as the Rams’ signal-caller late last season, nearly orchestrating a dramatic comeback win against Ballston Spa — and Tyrell Douglas have engaged in a tough competition throughout the offseason to earn the starting spot.
“It’s two guys really pushing each other, day in and day out,” Homich said. “It’s a nice competition that we’re witnessing each day.”
Through the opening week-plus of preseason practices, Homich has seen a team motivated to get Amsterdam back to a more familiar spot near the top of the echelon in Section II Class A competition.
“There’s a good vibe going among the guys,” he said. “They’re a really close-knit group, and they’ve really been working together. They’re pushing each other to be better.
“It’s 33 committed guys that are there day in and day out. Those are the guys we want. We want guys that are committed each and every day.”
Amsterdam played only one of its five Fall II games at the newly-renovated Lynch Literacy Academy field, and the Rams will have to wait a little bit more to play its first game in front of a typically spirited home crowd.
Amsterdam isn’t playing a Week 0 contest, instead opting for a scrimmage on Saturday morning at New Hartford, and the team’s September schedule consists of road games against South Glens Falls and Columbia sandwiched around a Week 2 bye.
The Rams’ first home game won’t come until their homecoming contest on Oct. 2 against Averill Park, and they won’t play under Lynch’s Friday night lights until hosting Ballston Spa on Oct. 8.
“It’s something we’re looking forward to, getting back to that good old Amsterdam tradition, and that advantage we have with our home field,” Homich said. “The kids are dying for it. They can’t wait for that first home game.”