Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons tight end/ linebacker Brendan Maloney was joking with Catholic Central linemen Tim Buell and Adam Dahl following a recent practice when the conversation turned to a game between the two private schools at the end of the 2012 season.
It’s the last game the Crusaders won.
“Back then, I didn’t know them. Two years ago, all I wanted to do was beat them,” said Maloney. “Now we’re on the same team. I consider us family.”
Developing player chemistry was phase one in the partnership between Catholic Central, Bishop Gibbons and Saratoga Central Catholic that came about over the winter in an effort to combat low numbers. Catholic Central is the newcomer in the mix after the Golden Knights and Saints joined forces for the 2013 season.
“We’re not three schools. We’re one football team,” said Maloney, who is among 15 seniors on the 44-player Holy Trinity varsity and junior varsity roster. “We were together every Sunday in the winter. When we came in for pre-practice in June, we were meshing.“
“It feels like we go to the same school,” said Justin Rohrwasser, who quarterbacked the Crusaders last year and is a Division I kicking prospect. “You wouldn’t know.”
The Holy Trinity, with its purple, black, gold and maroon uniform colors representing each of the schools, will compete in the Section II Class C Central Division with Voorheesville, Tamarac, Watervliet, Mechanicville and Stillwater.
Section II’s other three-school team, Schoburg, has been shifted from the Class D South Division to the Class C South to play with Cairo-Durham, Chatham, Coxsackie-Athens, Fonda-Fultonville and Taconic Hills.
“One family, one team, one goal,” said Nathan Guynup, who ran the ball for Catholic Central, but will move to offensive guard. “We all want to win.”
That is phase two, and the players that make up the Holy Trinity believe they can make it happen.
“We’re going to win games,” said linebacker/running back Jake Van Patten of Saratoga Catholic. “I think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with. It will be a nice change for the three schools.”
Saratoga Catholic fielded its last winning football team in 1975 (the school did not play from 1989-2007). Catholic Central’s last winning season was in 2000, and Bishop Gibbons’ last was in 2009. The combined Sainted Knights went 2-6 last year with an 8-7 win over Schoburg their signature performance.
“Our goal is not to finish the season,” said Holy Trinity head coach John Barber. “We want to make the playoffs. That’s why we’re here.”
The Sainted Knights qualified for the Class D playoffs last year after going 1-4 in the South Division, but with their number of varsity-ready players dwindled at that point, opted to meet Fort Edward in a crossover instead of going up against North Division champion Greenwich.
Fort Edward forfeited due to its own numbers issues, and the Sainted Knights did not play a Week 9 contest.
“In football, you’ve got to have numbers,” said Maloney.
Catholic Central didn’t have enough to go the distance in 2013 as a member of the Class C North Division. The Crusaders played five games and lost them all, forfeited two games afterward when they couldn’t suit up the state-mandated 16 players, and then called off their season.
“We started with 24 guys and had about 20 for our first game. We were competitive in the first few games, but we lost a running back, a wide receiver, some linemen. At the end, we probably had 14 who could play,” said Rohrwasser. “No one is worried about not finishing. We’re not going into it hoping to survive.”
Barber’s senior group includes ND-BG’s David Haskell and Saratoga Catholic’s Tim Brizzell, who will run the ball and anchor the secondary. Barber’s underclass group includes Maloney’s brother, Liam, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound freshman lineman.
“The first day of practice, kids kept coming out of the lockerroom,” said Barber. “It was so different than before. We’ve got 19, 20 guys from Catholic Central, seventeen from Bishop Gibbons, eight from Saratoga Catholic. They kept coming.”
The elder Maloney said the Crusaders were welcomed with open arms.
“Before all this happened, our athletic director [Pat Moran] called me down and asked me about us joining with Catholic Central,” said the 2013 Class D all-star. “I told him, ‘If it’s going to make us better, if it’s going to make us win, it’s a great idea.’ ”
The top two teams in each of the Class C league’s new three-division setup will make the playoffs. Two other teams will also qualify for the sectionals based on a tie-breaking formula. The Holy Trinity has much work to do — mentally and physically — to be a part of that mix.
“They need to learn how to win. These kids haven’t won much,” said Holy Trinity assistant coach Will Headen. “I’ll give you an example. We were doing a seven-on-seven over the summer and things were going well, then we lost focus, and things went the other way. The game is 48 minutes.”
The Holy Trinity will debut Friday night against Voorheesville at Catholic Central, and meet Tamarac a week from Saturday at Bishop Gibbons. Other home games are Oct. 3 against Watervliet at Catholic Central and Oct. 18 against Mechanicville at ND-BG.
Mechanicville has one of the league’s top two-way players in running back/linebacker Chase DeLosSantos.
“Voorheesville is probably the team to beat, but with Mechanicville, Watervliet and Stillwater, there’s a lot of tradition there,” said Barber. “There are good teams in our division, but I believe we have a shot. We have to have the right attitude. A positive attitude.”
Watervliet has a new turf field, but not a lot of guys who played on the old one.
“We lost 14 seniors. We have 13 seniors back, but only a handful with game experience,” said Watervliet coach Brian Hoefer. “I don’t know where we rank. All I know is we’re going to work hard and try to play to our ability.”
Schoharie and Duanesburg played their first varsity season as Schoburg in 2013 and their cast, led by quarterback Colin Kenyon, has been bulked up with the addition of players from Berne-Knox-Westerlo. Three two-school mergers took place in the offseason, with the new Lake George/Hadley-Luzerne team, as well as Greenwich, moving from the Class D circuit to the Class C league as North Division representatives.
Reigning Class D champ Cambridge has been joined by a handful of Salem players, and Fort Edward has been bolstered by a group from Hadley-Luzerne.
“That was the spirit of the merger rule, to allow kids to play,” said Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk assistant and new Section II football coordinator Bob Dorrance. “We’ve got to continue to try to grow the game of football.”
The Class C North includes Hoosick Falls, which has won 50 straight games and five consecutive championships inside Section II, and followed its 2012 area success with a state title.
“People say they’re down, but I don’t know,” said Hoefer. “They’re disciplined, and they’re in your face. I think you’ve still got to go through Hoosick Falls.”
Hoosick Falls, with veteran quarterback Garrett Wright, and Fonda-Fultonville will play their season openers at the Kickoff Classic at the Syracuse Carrier Dome this weekend. Don’t be surprised if they meet somewhere down the road. The Panthers beat the Braves in the 2010, 2011 and 2013 sectional semifinals and in the 2012 title game.
“These guys have worked hard to have a succcessful season,” said Braves coach Tom Carpenter.
The Braves’ returning cast features two-time 1,000-yard rusher Pat Hart, fullback-turned-quarterback Anthony Sinicropi and linemen Jack Derby, Ben Bogan and Anthony Brand.
“On defense we’re pretty solid. We’ve got speed,” said Carpenter. “We’ve got experienced skill kids. The key is our offensive line. They’ve got to jell and work together.”
Corinth brings back quarterback Chantz Baudoux, running back Alex Jenkins, wideout Anthony Abare and linebacker Noah Morgan from a six-win team that reached the sectional semifinals.
Sabres in Reinfurt
Schalmont’s second state Class B title-game appearance in four years ended in heartbreak last November, when Maine-Endwell rallied late for a 22-21 victory. That Sabres team, like the 2010 one that fell to Hornell, finished 12-1.
“It’s going to be a harder road,” said Schalmont senior running back/cornerback Kyle Strube. “We want it bad, but we know people want a piece of us.”
That happens when you win six straight Class B West Division titles and four Section II crowns in five years, like the Sabres have. They’ve been shifted to the Reinfurt Division in the new-look Class B league that lost Scotia-Glenville, Green Tech and Lansingburgh to Class A.
“You can’t worry about what you can’t control. You worry about what you can control, and that’s us,” said Schalmont coach Joe Whipple. “Our guys have to do the right things on the field. They’ve also got to do the right things off the field so they can stay on the field.”
Two of top two-way players in the area play in the Reinfurt Division in Schalmont quarterback/linebacker Nick Gallo, the 2013 Gazette Defensive Player of the Year, and new Albany Academy running back/linebacker Dakota Harvey, a 1,000-yard rusher with Saratoga Springs last year as a sophomore.
Schalmont’s move could leave the door open for Broadalbin-Perth in the West Division. The Patriots finished second to the Sabres in the division last year and lost to them for a second time in the Section II final, B-P’s first title game since 1988.
“We’ve got a lot of skill back from last year, and linemen. Hopefully, it falls into place for us,” said B-P coach Jim Pelneau. “Our expectations are high. We want to be in the talk in our division.”
The Patriots are coupled with Hudson Falls, Cobleskill-Richmondville, Glens Falls, Johnstown and Schuylerville in the West, and have a non-league game with Hoosick Falls.
“After last year and getting to the Super Bowl, it definitely boosts our confidence,” said quarterback Zach Morreale, one of B-P’s 16 seniors. “We’ve played a lot of games together and we know what it takes.”
Sophomore runner Tyler Preston should give the Pats a boost after missing 2013 with an ankle injury. Seniors Tyler Schmidt and Darius Reyes will join him in the backfield.
“Schalmont is in our division now with Albany Academy and Cohoes. The other division has Broadalbin-Perth, Schuylerville, Glens Falls,” said new state football coordinator and Ravena coach Gary VanDerzee, who has a standout quarterback in David Warnken. “That’s a lot of good teams.”
Fourth-year quarterback Ethan English and running backs Caleb Rowland and Chris Warnke are back to lead a Cambridge offense that generated over 30 points 10 times in a 10-1 season that ended in the state Class D regionals.