SCHENECTADY — A couple dozen Tri-City Spartans wearing shoulder pads, helmets and shorts took to the Mont Pleasant football field Tuesday night in preparation for Saturday’s 7 p.m. home opener against the Watertown Red & Black at Schenectady High School.
Several of those players appeared winded on the hot night, but there was also a sense of satisfaction accompanying the Spartans just days after their 27-13 win against the Glens Falls Greenjackets in their season-opening game of the Empire Football League. That effort wasn’t a perfect one for the Spartans, but it should provide momentum heading into the semi-pro team’s second outing.
“We started off flat in the last game. Second half, we played really sharp. Made a lot of adjustments,” Tri-City head coach Darrin Earing Sr. said. “We’re coming together slowly, but we’re getting there.”
The Spartans added multiple new players this offseason, and are looking to continue building more chemistry and improving to get into the best shape possible, as are often the goals of a young team.
“We have some returners and a lot of new players, so for our chemistry [to be where it is] for our first actual game, it’s pretty dope. . . . We’ve got new players who just came on board,” running back Kireme Pitts said. “The more we do well [and] perform, the more people will want to join us.”
Pitts will be a focal point of the offense going forward. Pitts tallied 100 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 carries against Glens Falls, plus caught a touchdown pass from starting quarterback Derrick Thompson.
Against Watertown, the team will look to continue its run-first approach with Pitts and fellow running back Elliot Lawrence.
“We ran the ball well — very well — to the tune of 197 yards on the ground. So, that’s a very strong statement to make to the other teams. We can run the ball, no doubt,” offensive coordinator Tommy Manning said with a smile. “We want to be a run-first, pass-second team because we’re of the old school [mindset].”
This approach will likely work well for what coaches and players described as a young team.
“We have a very good coach staff,” Earing said. “Our coaching staff has been around the game for a very long time.”
One key member of the Spartans is both a player and mentor, as the team’s left tackle is also its offensive line coach. That is Jacob Hobbs, a Schenectady native in his first year with the team after a career that’s included two stints with NFL teams and saw him win an ArenaBowl title with the Jacksonville Sharks.
“I just try to help out whenever I can to spread some of the knowledge, the technique work, just the experience,” Hobbs said. “O-line is about angles, hand placement, and a lot of guys don’t know that. They think they can try to just brute-force everything, and that’s not the case in most parts.”
Tyrell Feaster is an intern at The Daily Gazette. Feaster, a junior at the University at Albany, is majoring in journalism.