ROTTERDAM — It was less than five months ago, but a whole lot has changed since the last time Schalmont met Glens Falls on a football field.
When the two teams met April 30 at Stillwater High School, it was the de facto Section II Class B championship game of the “Fall II” football season, with a pair of undefeated teams clashing and Schalmont pulling out a dramatic 29-28 win to cap off the shortened spring season.
With both teams having largely turned over their rosters in the intervening months due to graduation, about the only similarity between that matchup and Saturday’s clash when Schalmont visits Glens Falls at 1:30 p.m. is that both teams, once again, enter undefeated.
Albeit, this time around, they’ve only played one game each.
“We both lost a lot of guys,” Schalmont coach Joe Whipple said. “But, knowing Glens Falls, they’re going to coach up all their athletes and they’re definitely going to be hungry to play us.”
Glens Falls not only its starting quarterback Noah Girard and top receivers Jackson Brand and Aalijah Sampson, but has a new coach for this year as Kurt Conduzio steps in for long-time head coach Pat Lilac, who stepped aside this fall to watch his son play at South Glens Falls.
The changes didn’t trouble the Indians much in their Week 0 matchup with South Glens Falls, as returning running back Griffin Woodell put up 173 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns in Glens Falls’ 43-22 win. That was followed up by a week off after the Indians’ Week 1 opponent, Green Tech, couldn’t play due to a COVID-19 quarantine.
As for Schalmont? The rebuilt Sabres neither scrimmaged nor played a Week 0 game, meaning the first time Whipple got to see his retooled roster line up against a team wearing a different uniform was last Friday, when they notched a 32-13 victory over Hudson Falls.
“We played a little sloppy,” Whipple said, “but for the most part, I was happy with how they responded in practice this week.”
“We came into the game with a lot of energy,” senior receiver and defensive back Max Pratt said. “We got a little too comfortable with ourselves, but if we can keep that energy throughout the whole game, we won’t have any worries.”
Pratt is one of the players Whipple said has stepped up big-time following the loss of stars from this past spring’s team like running back Rodney Parker and quarterback Trent Randle.
Other key players for the Sabres include senior defensive back Cole Contompasis, junior running back and linebacker Ryan Shultis and sophomore linebacker Donavin Benitez. Also making an impact is junior Sean Willis — younger brother of former Schalmont star Devon Willis — who is the latest in a long line of Sabres to make the position switch from skill position player to dual-threat quarterback.
It’s a team that relies heavily on youth, but Whipple is more than happy to let those young players test themselves early on before the Sabres reach the meat of their Class B Reinfurt Division schedule.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, but they’re really coming of age,” Whipple said. “We kind of throw them into the fire here. We look at the first two games of our season like preseason games. Obviously, we want to win, but we want to get our guys ready to play for a little bit longer than the first two games.”
But, while Saturday’s non-division game against Glens Falls might not factor into the standings later in the year, it’s certainly a chance for an early-season statement between two teams that have been regular title contenders in the past decade.
“Usually, it’s us as the top two in the section,” Pratt said. “This is the game right here.”