SCHENECTADY — Holy Trinity football officially began a new era Monday morning on a plot behind the field house at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School.
There's new blood in the mix, and in a couple of weeks, a new league in which to go after another championship.
"We're getting kids from the inner city and the suburbs. We've got a couple of country kids," Holy Trinity coach John Barber said as the Pride was wrapping up practice on the opening day of the fall high school sports season in New York state. "We've got to get them to work together. Our goal is always one team. One family."
They'll be playing one level up, going from Class C to Class B, and will do so with a new cast from Bishop Maginn joining the student-athletes from Catholic Central and Bishop Gibbons that have been together for the last three years as a two-school program.
While Barber isn't particularly pleased with the placement of his team in Class B, he and his cast are hardly shying away.
"When we saw we got moved up and saw the schedule, our thought was we could make a run at it," senior quarterback Joey Tortello said.
Holy Trinity will compete in the Class B Reinfurt Division with Week 1 opponent Hudson, as well as Cobleskill-Richmondville, Ichabod Crane, Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk and Schalmont. Holy Trinity has non-league games against defending Section II Class C champion Cambridge/Salem and Albany.
"The way the [Section II] regulations read, with a merger of private schools, you play in the highest classification of the schools involved," Barber said. "The last time Bishop Maginn played, they were Class B, so they're making us Class B, even though our enrollment is still Class C."
Bishop Maginn disbanded its football program following the 2015 season due to low player numbers, something Holy Trinity is grappling with as the new campaign begins. Holy Trinity has 38 players between its varsity and junior varsity rosters.
"We don't have depth. If somebody decides they don't want to play or we have some injuries, we'll be in trouble," Barber said. "It's happening all around, the low numbers. We've got 14, 15, 16 [varsity] kids to go with the JV kids."
Holy Trinity won its first outright division title in 2018 (Class C Central) after sharing the top spot with two other teams in 2017. That season Holy Trinity raced all the way to the state Class C title game.
"You don't want to win your division as a sophomore and junior, and not get it your last year," Tortello said. "That's goal No. 1."
"The kids are excited," Barber said. "The kids are upbeat. We had a successful 7-on-7. We had a good offseason. We are excited for the new challenge."
Four student-athletes from Bishop Maginn are in the fold led by E.J. Colon, a linebacker and fullback who competed for Green Tech the last two years, and place kicker Raion Barrett who also plays soccer.
"Part of the equation with going to Bishop Maginn was so I could play on this team," said Colon, a junior. "I was excited to join them. I'm ready for Week 1 already."
Catholic Central has four players with Holy Trinity led by Freddy Adrion, who returns to the offensive line with Bishop Gibbons' Adi Quinones and Alex Belcher. Bishop Gibbons products Nacier Hundley, Noah Foster, Tanner Kiser and Tortello are each back for a fourth varsity season.
"We'll be young in spots. In other spots, we'll have kids who have started for four years," Barber said. "We will be relying on those guys to bring the other kids along."
Holy Trinity has made three straight postseason appearances and put together an 18-4 record the last two seasons.
"We've got to stay on the same page and each practice get better," Colon said. "We've got to talk to each other. Trust each other."