For the first time in almost two full years, Amsterdam is finally ready for a home football game that really feels like a home game.
The Rugged Rams played on their recently renovated home turf at Lynch Literacy Academy just once during its five-game “Fall II” season this past March and April, a Friday afternoon contest against La Salle Institute where novel coronavirus pandemic protocols limited attendance to just two spectators per athlete, with the striking absence of many of the normal trappings around a game like the Amsterdam Marching Rams and Majorettes.
Thanks to a quirky schedule, it’s also taken a while for Amsterdam to get back into its home field this fall, but the undefeated Rams will kick off a three-game homestand Saturday at 1:30 p.m. with a homecoming contest against Section II Class A Capital Division rival Averill Park.
“At the [homecoming] bonfire [on Thursday], we were getting goosebumps hearing the band and the majorettes playing,” Amsterdam coach John Homich said. “We were visualizing the stands packed, everybody cheering us on. It’s good to get that old tradition back again.”
Amsterdam (1-0 Capital Division, 2-0 overall) comes into Saturday’s game riding high. The Rams’ two wins have come in vastly different fashion this season, with a 52-point, 500-plus yard offensive explosion in their opener against South Glens Falls/Fort Edward, and a dominating defensive performance with eight sacks and two safeties in their Sept. 24 win over Columbia.
Saturday, Homich said, is a chance to bring both of those elements together.
“We’ve been playing really well,” he said. “Things have been clicking for us. Last week, our defense really came together as a single unit. We’re looking to get all three phases firing on all cylinders for Saturday afternoon.”
The Amsterdam-Averill Park matchup has produced wilder games than any pairing in Section II over the last decade.
Since 2012, the two teams have played three games in which both teams scored at least 40 points, and four games that were decided in the final minute.
The “Fall II” meeting between the Rams and Warriors (1-0, 3-1) fit both of those criteria.
In an arcade-style free-for-all that saw Amsterdam receiver Josiah Newborn set a new state record with 22 receptions in a single game, the Rams rallied to take a 34-33 lead with 1:25 remaining, only to immediately surrender the lead on a kickoff return for a touchdown by Averill Park’s Ben Ferlito.
Trailing by seven, Amsterdam drove back down the field for a touchdown with 18 seconds left, but the 2-point conversion attempt to take the lead failed when running back Garrett McHeard was stuffed on a run up the middle, allowing the Warriors to hold on for a 41-40 win.
“Historically, they’ve been all-out battles, from the first whistle down to the last whistle,” Homich said. “They’re tough, hard-nosed games where you’re battling in all three phases of the game.”
In its three wins this season, Averill Park has outscored its opposition 108-26, including a 46-6 win last week against Troy that saw Warriors quarterback Gavin Giordano account for six total touchdowns (four passing, two rushing).
In what should prove to be a crucial matchup as the Class A playoff picture shakes out through October, Homich is hoping the energy of being back home in front of a full crowd can lift the Rams.
“Our kids feed off of that,” he said. “We feed off of the fans, the band and everyone around us. We’re really looking forward to that.”
FONDA-FULTONVILLE SEEKS REBOUND
Fonda-Fultonville (0-2 Class C North, 2-2 overall) suffered its first on-field loss of the season last week, dropping a 14-7 decision to undefeated Schuylerville. The Braves will have a chance to get themselves back on track Saturday at 1 p.m. when they host Section III’s Vernon-Verona-Sherrill.
Prior to the Schuylerville loss, Fonda-Fultonville — which suffered its other loss via forfeit when COVID-19 quarantine protocols left the team unable to play Cobleskill-Richmondville in Week 1 — racked up 104 points in its wins over Corinth/Hadley-Luzerne and Peru.
The meeting with Vernon-Verona-Sherrill is Fonda-Fultonville’s second game against an out-of-section opponent, both of which were late additions to the schedule. Fonda-Fultonville faced Peru in Week 0 after both teams found themselves without an opponent, while Vernon-Verona-Sherrill — a Class B program — had its original game this week against Chittenango called off due to a 10-day pause within the Chittenango program.