ROTTERDAM — Months later, the wistful tone remains for Schalmont football head coach Joe Whipple when he thinks back to how last season closed for his Sabres.
“We started off 4-0 and had some really good wins,” Whipple said at Wednesday’s practice. “We had a promising future — and, then, the Coxsackievirus hit us, and it hit us hard. We never recovered from that.”
More than a handful of players and an assistant coach were affected for Schalmont, which lost in Week 5 last year and then had its Week 6 game postponed because of the confirmed cases of Coxsackievirus, a virus that caused multiple Section II football games to be postponed in 2018. Schalmont’s postponed game ended up being made up on a Tuesday following the team’s Week 7 game, and Schalmont ended its season with an eight-day stretch in which it lost three games.
“It was just a crazy year,” Whipple said.
Schalmont’s three-games-in-eight-days stretch started with what was perhaps the most difficult loss for the Sabres to handle. That was when Cobleskill-Richmondville edged Schalmont 22-21 with a late 44-yard field goal from Donovan Pacatte to clinch the Reinfurt Division championship.
“That was a rough game for us,” Schalmont senior Jackson Woodrow said.
In Week 1 of the 2019 Section II football season, Schalmont gets its chance for revenge against Cobleskill. The Sabres visit the Bulldogs for a 7 p.m. Friday kickoff, as each program looks to gain an early advantage in the race toward a Section II Class B title.
“We want to get back to where we usually are,” Whipple said, “and that starts with our first game.”
Against a Cobleskill squad led by senior running back Hunter Edwards that appeared in last year’s Section II Class B Super Bowl, Schalmont brings a 35-deep roster that includes 18 seniors. Missing for Schalmont, though, is former starting quarterback Shane O’Dell who opted not to play football this season. Instead, O’Dell is concentrating during his senior year on basketball, a sport in which he is a Division I prospect.
“His goal has always been to play basketball,” Whipple said. “For his long-term goals, it didn’t make sense for him to play this year — and I wouldn’t want to put him in any jeopardy of losing out on a scholarship.”
O’Dell, Whipple said, alerted the coach of his decision not to play football as a senior during last winter’s basketball season.
“It says a lot about him that he came to me like that,” Whipple said.
The timing of it, too, allowed Schalmont ample opportunity to mold itself around senior quarterback Jake Sanford. This year, Whipple said the Sabres will get back to the rushing-dominated attack it featured when it won five area championships in a span of six years that ended in 2014.
“We look a little bit more like we did before Shane,” said Joe Whipple, whose son Rocco Whipple is the lone freshman on this year’s varsity Sabres.
While Schalmont has plans for a big season, Woodrow said the team’s only focus throughout the preseason has been on Week 1.
“Cobleskill is a good team,” Woodrow said, “so we’re really just preparing for them.”
Besides Schalmont’s trip to Cobleskill, here are four more games to watch in Week 1 of the Section II football season.
TROY AT LA SALLE INSTITUTE
These two played a memorable one last year for the Collar City Cup. Troy prevailed 20-18 in that game, which the Flying Horses led 14-0 to start before needing to stop a late 2-point conversion that could have tied it. This game between teams that made the playoffs in 2018 is a 7 p.m. Friday kickoff.
CANAJOHARIE/FORT PLAIN AT MECHANICVILLE
Each of these teams missed out on the postseason last year, and will look to get this season started right when they meet 7 p.m. Friday.
CAMBRIDGE/SALEM AT GREENWICH
The longtime rivals find themselves meeting in Week 1 this season in a 7 p.m. Friday matchup. Last year, Cambridge/Salem won a Section II Class C championship before falling in the state playoffs.
HUDSON AT HOLY TRINITY
After moving up to Class B for this season, Holy Trinity starts off with a 1:30 p.m. Saturday matchup against a Hudson program that advanced to the Section II Class B semifinals last season. Holy Trinity advanced to the Class C state title game in 2017 and fell in the Section II Class C semifinals last year.