This week, it’s the real deal.
Following the sport’s soft opening last week, high school football teams from all around Section II start play Friday with Week 1 games.
Niskayuna was one of the Capital Region’s teams that took advantage of the chance to play a game in Week 0, while the majority of Section II squads either scrimmaged or practiced. Head coach Brian Grastorf’s Niskayuna squad played against Auburn, a strong Section III program, in Week 0, and fell by a touchdown on the road.
“That was a great lead-in to Week 1 for us,” Grastorf said.
Class A Niskayuna plays Friday at Class AA Bethlehem, as nearly all teams from the area’s large-school classifications will each play a non-league game in Week 1 against a team from the other classification. Bethlehem lost in Week 0 to Ballston Spa.
For Niskayuna, quarterback Dan Quinn starred last week. He rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another in the Silver Warriors’ 28-21 loss. Quinn started at quarterback during last season’s “Fall II” campaign for Niskayuna and played well, but Grastorf said the improvement Quinn has shown from last season to this one is impressive.
“He got thrown in at quarterback, like, four days before our first game last season,” said Grastorf, whose team’s projected starting quarterback last season was Brock Behrman, who suffered an injury. “Dan got thrown in there, but he did a great job — and he played unbelievable at corner for us.”
Other games in Week 1 pitting Class AA vs. Class A teams include Averill Park at CBA, Colonie at Ballston Spa, Guilderland at Troy, Saratoga Springs at Columbia, Queensbury at Shenendehowa, and a highly anticipated matchup that sees Burnt Hills travel to Shaker.
At least five Section II teams are unable to play in Week 1 because of issues at least partially related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Officials at Granville, Green Tech, Lake George and Schenectady confirmed their football teams were unable to play this week because of COVID-19 protocols, while Coxsackie-Athens athletic director Curtis Wilkinson said coronavirus-related absences and injury issues combined to keep the school’s team off the playing field in Week 1.
Not all of the opponents of those five teams were able to find new opponents. Stillwater head coach Ian Godfrey’s team was supposed to play Lake George, but will instead sit out Week 1.
“We thought we might have time to find an opponent, but it never worked out,” Godfrey said.
Section II’s “Fall II” season was played in March and April because of issues related to the pandemic, and that season often saw teams need to cancel or postpone games on short notice for coronavirus-related reasons.
‘It’s tiring, and I feel bad for our kids — and the Lake George kids, too,” Godfrey said of not being able to participate in Week 1. “It’s an unfortunate situation . . . but it’s the reality, too, of the situation that we’re still facing. It hasn’t gone away.”
Coxsackie-Athens, Granville, Green Tech, Lake George and Schenectady are expected to play in Week 2. To make its return-to-the-field timeline work, though, Lake George’s Week 2 game against Chatham was moved to Sept. 20, which is a Monday.
After a highly successful run leading the Holy Trinity program, John Barber makes his debut Friday night as Troy’s head coach.
Barber’s run with Holy Trinity — a merged program that largely featured players from Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons, which isn’t fielding a team this season — included a trip to a Class C state championship game among its highlights, and Barber’s tenure at Troy starts with a home game against a Guilderland program that won Class AA’s “Fall II” crown.
Barber replaces Bob Burns who won two state championships at Troy before leaving to take over the CBA program. While Troy was undefeated last season, Barber’s group of Flying Horses is a relatively inexperienced group built around sophomores and juniors.
“We still have high expectations,” said Barber, who liked the way his team competed during a Week 0 scrimmage against Saratoga Springs.
Coming off an undefeated season, Schalmont needs to reload — and head coach Joe Whipple’s program will turn to a player with a familiar last name to lead its offense.
Sean Willis — the younger brother of former Sabres star running back Devon Willis — is the team’s new quarterback, as the senior replaces Trent Randle who graduated last spring. Sean Willis played wide receiver last season for Schalmont.
“He’s been outstanding,” Whipple said. “He’s really embraced the role for us.”
After not participating in Week 0, Schalmont plays host to Hudson Falls in its Week 1 game.
BACK ON THE FIELD
Broadalbin-Perth had planned to play in Week 0, but couldn’t play because it didn’t have enough healthy players. Head coach Jim Pelneau’s Patriots will start their season Friday at Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk.
“It was a letdown to not play, for sure, but it is unfortunately the reality we are living in here right now,” said Broadalbin-Perth coach Jim Pelneau, whose team’s roster only includes 22 players — six more than the minimum needed to play.
Broadalbin-Perth was supposed to play Fonda-Fultonville, which ended up playing on short notice at Section VII’s Peru.
“It was a very interesting week,” Fonda-Fultonville head coach Sean Thompson said. “We were ready to roll, having a home opener against a local rival. Our kids were really, really excited about it; we’d been working on the game plan for two weeks. We were pretty surprised the game was canceled.”
Fonda-Fultonville, which plays at Cobleskill-Richmondville in Week 1, won 49-21 at Peru last weekend.
“On two days’ notice, without a lot of game-planning — and a heck of a long bus trip — our kids went and played a pretty good game,” Thompson said.
Daily Gazette staff writers Adam Shinder and Paul Wager contributed to this report.