Longtime Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk football coach Gary VanDerzee was named the state’s coordinator for the sport at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s annual Central Committee meeting in Lake Placid earlier this week.
VanDerzee said he has stepped down as Section II’s football coordinator, a position he held for 17 years.
“I’m excited about this,” said VanDerzee, who in previous years oversaw significant change in the Section II football landscape. “We found out at the state tournament that Dick Cerone was stepping down, and a couple of guys asked me if I would be interested in doing it. I thought about it and after I agreed, they nominated me and I got voted in.”
Cerone served as the NYSPHSAA football coordinator for 33 years, and was a major player in the formation and growth of the state tournament. This fall will mark his 40th year as the Section V football coordinator.
“Dick Cerone and the [state football] committee have done a great job over the years. We’re in a good spot,” said VanDerzee. “I’ve got some ideas, but I don’t plan on any big changes right away.”
During VanDerzee’s time in charge of Section II football, several schools added programs, an annual preseason media day was brought about and classification play was introduced.
“Going to classification play, that was big,” said VanDerzee.
Bob Dorrance, an assistant football coach at Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, has replaced VanDerzee as the Section II football coordinator. Dorrance will also begin the school year at RCS’s new athletic director.
“He’s been with me since the early ’90s,” said VanDerzee. “He knows what the position entails. He’ll do a good job.”
VanDerzee will be starting his 32nd season with the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk varsity. His Indians have put together a 193-100-4 mark and reached 10 Section II title games, winning Class B crowns in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2004.
“We want to compete for the championship,” said the Capital Region Football Hall of Fame member. “We want to be one of those last teams playing.”
The Indians’ returning cast from last year’s 6-3 team that reached the sectional semifinals includes quarterback Dave Warnken.
“We’ve got some good returning skill players, but few seniors,” said VanDerzee. “We’ll see how we come together.”
Nineteen of VanDerzee’s last 20 teams finished with a winning record. His 1996 edition reached the state championship game at went 12-1, and his three other sectional winners went 11-1 after advancing to the state semifinals.
Basketball game added
Varsity basketball teams will be allowed to play a 19th game during the regular season following approval at the NYSPHSAA Central Committee meeting.
Game schedules were reduced from 20 games to 18 beginning in 2009-10 as a cost-cutting measure.
“It was [voted] 27-19 to approve it,” said Bill Higgins, the boys’ state basketball coordinator. “Now, it’s up to each section to approve it. Section II is in favor of it.”
Higgins said each school will have the option of adding a 19th game.
“It will be up to each school,” he said. “It’s a good thing, and I believe a lot of schools will want that 19th game. Some may not. You can play 16 if you want.”
According to Higgins, Sections VIII, IX, X and XI voted against the 19th game.
“It’s 19 this year and possibly 20 the following year, but that’s on hold right now,” Higgins said. “It will come to a vote again. Hopefully, the sections that voted for 19 will vote for 20.”
Higgins’ got a positive vote to remain as the state basketball coordinator at the Central Committee meeting. This upcoming season will be his 26th in that role.
“When you enjoy something so much, it’s tough to say goodbye, but probably two more years. That will be it,” said the former Section II coordinator and area coach at several schools. “You meet a lot of nice people doing this, and then there’s the kids. They’re the best thing about it. That’s what you do it for.”
Higgins will continue to get a big assist from former Stillwater coach Mike Lilac, who stepped down as the Section II boys’ basketball coordinator after last season.
“I’ve been his right-hand man for a long time,” said Lilac, who led Section II for 25 years. “I’ll do what ever I can to help, and I’ll be there to help Will Ferguson along.”
Ferguson, who coaches at Ichabod Crane, has assumed Lilac’s Section II role.
“We won’t miss a beat,” said Higgins.
Eagle comes home
Bridget Murphy, who had a superb basketball career at Bethlehem High School, has transferred from Saint Francis (Pa.) University to the University at Albany.
The 5-foot-9 guard will have to sit out the 2014-15 season before suiting up for UAlbany. The Danes went 28-5 last season and won their third straight America East tournament title.
Murphy started four games and played in 31 as a freshman at Saint Francis, and averaged 7.4 points and 3.1 assists.
At Bethlehem, Murphy was a four-year varsity performer, and a two-time captain, two-time MVP for the Lady Eagles and two-time Suburban Council first-team all-star. She scored 1,035 career points.
Bethlehem went 20-1 during Murphy’s senior season, losing only to Albany in the Section II Class AA final.