Johnstown football coach Paul Furman is looking at Friday’s season starting game with Gloversville as a test run of sorts.
The Week 0 non-league game will be Furman’s first in charge of the Sir Bills, and their first chance to try out a new-look offense and defense that their coach brought over from his days at Amsterdam.
That the game at Knox Field will renew one of Section II’s oldest rivalries just adds spice to it.
“It’s important to the two communities,” said Furman, who served as an assistant at Johnstown in the “Fall II” season back in March and April and has taken over for Tyler Hall. “When I looked at our options for that weekend I was weighing rivalry game or scrimmage. I started looking into the history of this game and thought it would be a great opportunity to get it going again.”
It’s also an opportunity for Furman to see his Sir Bills operate on both sides of the ball against a live opponent in a game that will have no bearing on the Section II Class C playoff race.
“For this team it’s very important for them to gain confidence in our offense and defense,” Furman said. “The guys are itching to see what they can do with it.”
The Sir Bills will be going with a pro set offense rather than the spread and a defense that is built around a four-man front, but will adjust its perimeter cast to each opponent. Among the new starters will be senior quarterback Bryce Mureness, who backed up his brother, Caden, when the Sir Bills went 2-3 in the condensed Fall II season that was capped by a 46-20 win over Ichabod Crane.
“We’re going into the season with a lot of changes, and the guys have embraced the changes with open arms,” Furman said. “They have bought in, and they are like sponges. They take it and absorb it.”
“I think everyone loves it,” said Johnstown senior Brodie Loucks, who will be among the runners in the team’s new-look I formation. “We’re working hard. Our goal is to win.”
Johnstown picked up a win against Gloversville when the teams last met in the 2018 season 35-28. Gloversville prevailed in the two games before, 35-27 in 2017 and 9-7 in 2016.
“What we do against Gloversville will set the tone for the season,” said Johnstown senior Ethan Petrie, who will play a significant two-way role as a guard and linebacker. “Even though it’s a Week Zero game, it can really help us.”
Furman will act as Johnstown’s defensive coordinator and Bob Noto, who for years was on the Amsterdam staff, has assumed the offensive coordinator role.
“We don’t have the traditional offensive line that goes 220, 230 across,” Furman said. “Our offense is built for smaller guys, and I think our guys need to see it and build trust in it. This is the offense [former Amsterdam star] Justice Smith ran out of. They were tough kids, but not the biggest kids.”
With its roster of 39 between varsity and JV, Johnstown has a non-league at Norwich in Week 1 before Class C league games with Fall II champ Schuylerville, Mechanicville, Hoosick Falls/Tamarac, Corinth/Hadley-Luzerne, Fonda-Fultonville and Cobleskill-Richmondville.
A total of eight teams will qualify for the Class C Section II playoffs that begin with a quarterfinal round in Week 8.
“We’re all on the same page,” Mureness said. “We know what we have to do. We have to go out and do it.”
“This is the last year to get things done,” Petrie said.
Furman, who starred on championship teams at Amsterdam in his high school days and was a longtime assistant there before joining the Johnstown staff last school year, is optimistic about a turnaround. The Sir Bills went 2-7 in 2019 and 3-5 in 2018.
“Football has struggled a bit in Fulton and Montgomery county,” Furman said. “Hopefully we can be one of the teams to bring it back and get people excited.”
“Everyone is pretty pumped up this year,” Mureness said. “We don’t have to worry about all of the COVID stuff and we can just focus on winning games.”