SCOTIA — Bob Leto’s first season as head football coach at Scotia-Glenville saw signs of continued upward trajectory for the Tartans program, with a Section II Class A playoff appearance and an impressive season-closing crossover win against Amsterdam.
Then came 2020, and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought a halt to all of that progress.
The fall 2020 season was pushed back into a shortened spring 2021 campaign that saw a Tartans team devastated by pandemic-related quarantines go 0-5. When Leto brought his team back a few months later for the fall 2021 season, things didn’t go much better, with COVID and injuries hampering a team that was short on numbers to begin with in a 2-5 campaign that ended in a four-game losing streak, with those last three losses all coming by 35 points or more.
“Last year,” Leto said, as his team practiced Wednesday afternoon, “we had three different weeks where we were down 21 players. A combination of quarantine and injury, and some other stuff. It made it very challenging. The whole second half of the year, we had to unfortunately steal all of our JV players, and that messed up our JV season.”
Finally, this season, things have started to turn back in a positive direction.
Scotia-Glenville opened the season in difficult fashion, going on the road and falling 38-7 to defending Section II Class B champion Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, but the Tartans have rebounded over the last two weeks with back-to-back road wins against Hudson Falls and Cohoes.
That sets the stage for a big opportunity Friday night in the Tartans’ home opener, with undefeated Gloversville — last year’s Class B runner-up — coming to Hitchcock Field for a 7 p.m. matchup.
With only four Section II Class B playoff spots available this year, games like Friday’s are an opportunity for the Tartans to prove that not only have they started to turn things around, but they might be ready to contend, as well.
“It would mean a lot,” Tartans quarterback Bryce Layton said. “Scotia football hasn’t been that good, but we know we’re different.”
“We’ve been through a lot as a program,” senior tight end/linebacker Paul Marotta said. “But, that’s what makes us special. We come out here as a group, as a family. We’ve all been playing ball together for a lot of years.”
There are plenty of differences between this Scotia-Glenville team and the one that most recently brought the program to the Section II postseason in 2019. That was a senior-heavy squad, full of players who had spent years at their respective positions, with a deep roster of nearly 50 varsity players.
This year’s team? It’s got a roster just about half that size, and it’s full of players who have moved around from their natural spots for the good of the team, like Nick Battaglia switching from free safety to inside linebacker, or George Allard moving from fullback to offensive guard to give the Tartans added depth on the line.
“It’s really a team effort,” Leto said. “These guys are really coming together and working well together. It’s a lot of guys contributing.”
Leto’s also tailored his playbook to this team’s particular talents, emphasizing speed and athleticism over size and power, and allowing first-year starting quarterback Layton to operate in a more open offense.
It’s required a lot of work, senior running back and linebacker Nick Coons said, but it’s paid off.
“We really want to make a statement and show what we’re made of,” said Coons, who had an interception return for a touchdown that kickstarted the Tartans’ 27-22 win over Hudson Falls on Sept. 10. “We’ve been practicing hard, and we want to show it on the field.”
The Tartans are hopeful that their 2022 can emulate the 2021 of Friday night’s opponent, Gloversville. Last year, the Huskies rebounded from nearly a decade of struggles to close their season strong and reach the program’s first Section II championship game in more than two decades. So far this season, the Huskies have gotten right back to business, winning all three of their games by double digits.
For Scotia-Glenville, Friday is a chance to show they’re on the same trajectory.
“We take it as an opportunity to show everyone in the whole section what we’re really about,” Marotta said. “We want to show that we’re a special team, that we can compete with anyone.”