Sunday, August 31, 2008

Class D Preview

RENSSELAER – The Rensselaer Rams have a brand-new field to break in this year, but the 2008 season brings the same old challenge for Rensselaer head coach Joel Preston: the numbers game.

Rensselaer High qualifies for Class D, the smallest of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s five classification levels. While the cutoff numbers vary by sport, the smallest football grouping includes all schools with fewer than 275 students in grades nine, ten and eleven.

“There is probably not a kid who is eligible to play football that I didn’t talk to on the phone this summer,” Preston said. “I try to reach out to everybody and the kids do that too. They try to knock on doors and get everyone out.”

Although the school does not offer any boys sports in the fall other than football, it is still impossible for the high school teams to run separate practices with full 11-on-11 scrimmages: 37 players in total turned out for varsity and junior varsity squads.

“Fact is,” Preston said, “there are only right around 50 kids in the graduating class every year and if you get a majority of girls, it doesn’t leave a lot of guys left to play football.”

But that does not mean the Rams have low expectations. Rensselaer fell just one game short of the Class D Super Bowl in 2006 and 2007 and with a bumper crop of talented returnees, the Rams have reason to aim high. Only three starters from Rensselaer’s 2007 team were lost to graduation and the three players filling those spots all saw considerable time on the field last year.

Rensselaer quarterback Shane Brozowski throws a pass during practice last week. (Tom Killips - The Record)

Shane Brozowski, a senior quarterback and linebacker, starts his second season under center and serves as a leader for the Rams on both sides of the ball. He says the tight-knit vibe at Rensselaer has its benefits.

“I can trust everyone,” Brozowski said. “Definitely the backs that protect me and the (offensive) line. It’s going to be a good year, I’m excited.”

“Shane is they key,” Preston said. “But the offensive line is too. They have to protect him.”

Rensselaer went 4-2 in league play last year and finished with a 6-3 overall record, losing to eventual Section II champion Fort Edward in the Class D semifinals.

Along with Brozowski, senior Zach Reynolds (tight end/linebacker) and junior Nate Butler (fullback/linebacker) round out the captain spots. Jasheem Hamilton, a junior tailback and linebacker, figures to get the lion’s share of carries – and he also completes a tenacious linebacking corps.

But the Rams’ strength this year might be an influx of playmakers at the speed positions. Chris Britt and Mico Perez-De Los Santos, both juniors, are hoping to create a new air attack to balance the running game.

“Coach said we’ll be doing a lot of passing,” Britt said. “Usually, we’re a run team and now we’ve got a lot of good players. And Shane, he’s got a great arm.”

“Those are two kids that can score from anywhere on the field, anytime,” Preston said of Britt and Perez-De Los Santos. “Our overall team speed is fantastic.”

Rams head coach Joel Preston directs his team during double sessions last week. (Tom Killips - The Record).

Rensselaer opens the season Saturday, Sept. 6 at Bishop Gibbons and the Rams will play their first game on the new field on Friday, Sept. 12 against Saratoga Central Catholic. Spa Catholic, which has about 100 students in the high school, is trotting out a team after a twenty-year hiatus.

Hoosic Valley, a Class C school, fielded a team for the first time in school history just two seasons ago and Fort Edward, with 110 students in grades nine through eleven, has dominated Class D in the past. Smaller schools are finding that with an outpouring of community support, running a successful football program is possible.

Preston called football the “city sport” in Rensselaer because the children grow up learning in the Pop Warner program and dream of playing on the varsity team from a young age. The district’s new middle school team is also beginning to make football a habit among the youngsters anxious to get involved in an extra-curricular activity.

“The fact that we started a modified program is really helping,” Preston said. “Kids get to middle school and they want to get involved in something. Having a sport there, whether they know they want to play or not, they give it a shot. If they didn’t play modified, they might play something else or try something else. They get the taste in their mouth and they follow through.”

All athletic teams in Rensselaer also get assistance from the Rensselaer Athletic Association, a non-profit organization run by parent volunteers since the late 1970s. The group collects money from concession stand sales and donates equipment to needy players and teams.

While the Rams are small-school players, their aspirations are enormous.

“We have high expectations,” said Preston. “We were one game from the Super Bowl the last two years and their goal is to get to the Super Bowl. We’re ready to take the next step.”

Jasheem Hamilton attacks a running drill during the second week of practice at Rensselaer High School. (Tom Killips - The Record).

Two minute drill: Class D players to watch

Derrick Pitts, junior running back, Bishop Gibbons, 6-0, 174

Pitts rushed for over 500 yards last season and looks to lead the Golden Knights to their first winning season since 1976.

Ryan Maxwell, junior wide receiver, Bishop Gibbons, 5-6, 130

A bright spot on a disappointing 2007 season for Gibbons, Maxwell will spark a new-and-improved passing attack.

Dylan Slater, junior running back, Canajoharie, 5-9, 160

Led the team in scoring as a sophomore and took the Cougars to the 2007 Class D title game. With Slater back, Canajoharie just might be the team to beat in the South Division.

Nate Butler, junior fullback/linebacker, Rensselaer, 5-10, 175

Butler is not likely to get many touches as a fullback, but he will pave the way for a horde of speedy Rams backs and also be an aggressive playmaker on the defensive side of the ball.

Kyle McKeighan, junior quarterback, Salem, 6-0, 160

The junior begins his third year starting under center. He threw for over 600 yards last season although the Generals struggled, going 1-8.

Colby Stout, junior running back, Greenwich, 5-8, 165

The Witches drop down to Class D after playing to a 4-5 record in Class C last year. Colby will fill in for older brother Dylan, who graduated after last season. Colby had 223 yards on 75 carries as a sophomore.

Bob Phillips, senior quarterback, Fort Edward, 5-10, 140

Wide receiver Matt Thibodeau graduated as the second-leading receiver in career yardage in Section II history – meaning Phillips will need to find a new target. With backs Damian Taylor and Tony Breeyear lost to graduation, Phillips figures to be the Flying Forts’ main offensive weapon in their defense of the Section II title.

Ray Cummings, senior lineman/fullback, Fort Edward, 5-9, 155

Cummings was a versatile player a year ago, appearing both in the backfield and on the front line.

Logan Rock, senior defensive lineman, Warrensburg, 5-10, 220

Rock is one of the top wrestlers in New York State and finished fourth overall in the state meet. Opposing offensive lines had better get a push on him as his size could free up linebackers for easy tackles.

Tom Holmgren, senior quarterback, Warrensburg, 6-0, 170

The Burgers went 3-6 in Class D a year ago, but Holmgren is poised to take Warrensburg on a charge in the North Division in his senior season.

2008 Class D Preseason Poll

1. Canajoharie – The Cougars have steadily improved since reforming a varsity team in 2004 after a one-year hiatus, culminating in a 9-1 campaign and a berth in the Class D Super Bowl in 2007. Running back Dylan Slater led the way as a sophomore and will be expected to take more of the load this year.

Canajoharie plays at Rensselaer in week three, a game that might well determine the winner of the South Division.

2. Rensselaer – The Rams improved in the offseason in two major categories: depth and speed.

Five running backs all made a good impression in the first two weeks of practice and a number of perimeter speed players are looking to be major targets for quarterback Shane Brozowski.

Rensselaer players, however, were all quick to point out that defense was their favorite part of the game and holding other teams off the scoreboard just might be their biggest strength.

3. Fort Edward – Three of their top offensive performers from 2007 graduated in June, but the Flying Forts always seem to make more of less. Fort Edward went 24-7 over the past three seasons and they own the last two Section II titles.

Warrensburg and Whitehall may give Fort Edward a test in the North Division, but the Flying Forts have experience and history on their side.

4. Greenwich – The Witches just barely qualify in Class D this season, with 271 students in grades nine, ten, and eleven, they are four students shy of the 275 cutoff mark. Greenwich was just under .500 at 4-5 in Class C a year ago, but if underclassmen running backs Joe Dauphin and Colby Stout can pick up the slack – the Witches could challenge Canajoharie and Rensselaer for South Division supremacy.

5. Bishop Gibbons – The Golden Knights have not given the fans in Schenectady much to cheer about so far this decade. Gibbons teams have won eight games in the last eight years – four of those coming in 2003.

If the Knights can create running lanes for junior running back Derrick Pitts, a handful of wins is not out of the question.

Class D Week One Schedule

Friday, Sept. 5


Greenwich at Lake George, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 6

North Division

Fort Edward at Warrensburg, 1:30 p.m.

Whitehall at Salem, 1:30 p.m.

South Division

Rensselaer at Bishop Gibbons, 1:30 p.m.

Saratoga Central Catholic at Canajoharie, 1:30 p.m.

2007 Class D Standings

League Overall

Canajoharie 6-0 9-1

Fort Edward 5-1 8-3

Rensselaer 4-2 6-3

Whitehall 3-3 4-4

Warrensburg 2-4 3-6

Salem 1-5 1-8

Bishop Gibbons 0-6 0-8

-- Will Montgomery

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Six-Team Scrimmage in Troy

TROY – High school football players lined up across from differently colored uniforms on Saturday, a day set aside for inter-school scrimmages. But their coaches weren’t far behind, swooping in to adjust defensive alignments and offer instruction in a tune-up prior to the regular season kickoff on Friday.

La Salle Institute hosted a six-team scrimmage with Watervliet, Gloversville, Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk and out-of-section squads from Peru (Section VII) and Marlboro (Section IX).

The Cadets, Section II Class AA champions in 2007, were anxious to get back on the field because heavy losses from graduation make the 2008 group a new-look team. Tailback Marquis Terrell, The Record’s co-offensive Player of the Year in 2007, is back for his senior season, but most of the other Cadets are untested on the varsity level.

Mike Blais, a defensive end and tight end/wide receiver, will likely be a big playmaker for La Salle on the offensive side of the ball. He is, however, adapting to his role as a pass-catcher because he was a two-way lineman as a junior.

“We all just worked hard the last two weeks in preseason and did a lot of conditioning,” Blais said. “Everyone has come together and connected and the linemen picked up on their assignments. We didn’t know what to expect (Saturday), but it turned out pretty good.”

Blais hooked up with quarterback Mike Murray on a number of nice catches. According to La Salle head coach Al Rapp, Murray will likely be the team’s opening day starter on Friday when the Cadets host Liberty Division rival Colonie at 7 p.m.

The Cadets focused on the passing game Saturday because they need to be able to move the ball through the air to prevent defenses from putting eight men in the box to stuff Terrell and the running game. In addition to Blais, R.J. Williams, who appeared at wide receiver, tight end and quarterback, also made an impression.

“Whatever we can get going – if we can get the running game going, the passing game going - that’s what we’re going to go with,” Blais said. “We’ll do whatever is going to win us the game.”

Watervliet senior quarterback Chris Hughes throws a pass in practice earlier in the week. (Tom Killips - The Record)

Watervliet, the only Class C team in the scrimmage, made the most of their session competing against schools with larger enrollments.

“There were a lot of big schools,” said Tom Ebenhoch, a senior wide receiver and cornerback. “We’re not used to those kind of schools. It was nice because we practice with the same kids every day and (Saturday) we got to come out and practice with guys like Marquis Terrell. It’s a little change of pace.”

Ebenhoch connected a number of times with new quarterback Chris Hughes, who takes over for Mike Cooney. Cooney, who graduated this summer, led the Cannoneers to a 7-2 record in the West Division a year ago. Hughes has the skills to be a leader – he plays point guard on Watervliet’s basketball team – and he is adapting well to the new position on the gridiron.

“We have faith in him,” said Watervliet head coach Erick Bernard. “He’s a good athlete, he’ll be fine. Once he settles down, he’ll be good.”

The Watervliet senior class, bolstered by powerful running backs Matt Kodadar and Caleb Gleason, is close-knit because most of the team plays sports together year-round.

“There are good and bad things about small-school sports,” Bernard said. “One, they always play everything together so they know each other well. The bad thing is they have to play everything,” he laughed. “But they know each other pretty well, so hopefully they just continue to gel.”

Remember to check out our series of Class-by-Class previews beginning in Monday''s Record with Class D and a feature story on the Rensselaer Rams.

This is a change from the previous post: a last-minute space-change means everything has been pushed back a day. The new schedule is below.

Class D: Monday, Sept 1
Class C: Tuesday, Sept. 2
Class B: Wednesday, Sept. 3
Class A: Thursday, Sept. 4
Class AA: Friday, Sept. 5

Apologies for any confusion.

- Will Montgomery

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Football previews forthcoming

We're hard at work finalizing our football previews, set to run in The Record next week.

We will also be posting our predicitions and players to watch in this space before games begin on Friday, September 5th.

Here is the hard copy schedule:

Sunday, Aug. 31 - Class D

Monday, Sept. 1 - Class C

Tuesday, Sept. 2 - Class B

Wednesday, Sept. 3 - Class A

Thursday, Sept. 4 - Class AA

Until then, make sure to vote in the poll and let us know who you think is going to make a splash this season.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Collar City Gridders First Day Of Practice

TROY – Thousands of high school football players hit the practice field for the first time on Monday and perhaps none was more excited than Lansingburgh running back Marcus Hepp.

“It’s was exciting because it’s been nine months, maybe ten, and we’re happy to be together,” Hepp said, “we’re a big family. We’re just happy to be one now and we’re going to work as hard as we can, to be the team that we should be.”

Hepp ran for 1,029 yards and scored 14 touchdowns as a junior last season – outstanding numbers by any standard.

But Hepp was only third-best behind Kenny Youngs (1,991 yards) and NyQuan McGirt (1,231), who have both graduated, leaving the Lansingburgh backfield for Hepp.

“I have to step up my game,” he said, “step up everything, because all eyes are focused on me. I see myself as the main leader, so, I just want to step up and be the best leader, the best player I can. I just want to lead my team to however far we can go.”

Lansingburgh running back Marcus Hepp (foreground) waits for the snap during practice at Lansingburgh High School on Monday. (Mike McMahon - The Record)

The Knights also saw veteran leaders such as quarterback Connor Gallo and linebacker Chris Sawyer graduate, but a new group of players are just as hungry.

“They’ve seen the success that guys have had in the past here and they just want to emulate that success,” said Lansingburgh head coach Pete Porcelli. “And that’s going to come with just plain old hard work. That’s what we’re trying to emphasize to the kids now, hustle to everything you’re doing, work hard at every drill, try to impress the coaches and we’ll go from there.”

The Knights scrimmage against Queensbury, Burke Catholic and host Guilderland on Aug. 30 and kick off the regular season against Glens Falls in Lansingburgh on Sept. 5.

“If we do the small things right, the little things right, the wins will take care of themselves,” Porcelli said. “That’s what we’re emphasizing right now are the little things: stances, starts, all that stuff.”

One of those newcomers is Tyler Hammett, who Porcelli puts in the 6-foot-8, 330-pound range. A transfer student, Hammett is a basketball player who is just beginning to learn the ins-and-outs of football.

Lansingburgh player Tyler Hammett (6-foot-8, 330 pounds) dances his way through an agility drill during practice. It the first year the longtime basketball player has tried football and coaches aren't sure yet what position he will play. (Mike McMahon - The Record)

“It’s hard to tell right now who’s going to step up and be the guy,” said Porcelli. “We’ve got some speed back there, we just have to get them in game situations. We definitely have some talent. We look good on paper. But paper you can just take it and throw it away, so everybody’s got something to prove.”

Lansingburgh lineman Daquan Davis does drills at the first day of practice on Monday. (Mike McMahon - The Record)

Hepp, who spent all summer powerlifting and getting in shape, is ready to shoulder the load all by himself this season. But the new players will be helping out soon enough.

“It makes them kind of hungry too, because they made it all in the stands and now they want to live it and be on the field,” said Hepp. “So they’re going to help us get back to that goal and that’s the main goal this year: get back to the dome. So we have to make it happen.”

Lansingburgh head coach Pete Porcelli (left) instructs his players on the first day of practice at the high school on Monday. (Mike McMahon - The Record)

---Cadets Counting on Terrell: Football practice at La Salle starts at 7:59 a.m. sharp. Although the Cadets return senior running back Marquis Terrell, one of The Record’s co-offensive Player of the Year in 2007 on 1,939 yards rushing and 30 touchdowns scored, most of the other starters will be new faces.

The Cadets return only three starters on each side of the ball.

“The rest are all newbies and guys who were JV guys or juniors last year that didn’t get a lot of playing time,” said La Salle head coach Al Rapp. “We’re basically starting from scratch again and I think if we can get our line together, we’ll be competitive.”

Terrell, who averaged 7.1 yards per carry in 2007, scampered for 365 yards and seven touchdowns against Schenectady. But this year, only one fifth of the starting offensive line is back.

“(Marquis) knows the yards early are going to come harder because he doesn’t have that great line he had last year to start with,” Rapp said. “I think our line will be OK, but we just have to bring them together.”

La Salle tailback Marquis Terrell (left) takes a fake handoff from quarterback R.J Williams at the school during the first day of high school practice on Monday morning. (Mike McMahon - The Record)

Quarterback Jared Henkel and linebacker Brian Beuary are among the many players the Cadets will miss and three quarterbacks are battling for the now vacated spot. Two split time on the JV squad in 2007 and another is a transfer student.

The Cadets host Monroe-Woodbury at La Salle on Sept. 19, the team that beat La Salle 42-20 in the Class AA regional. Guilderland, the team the Cadets beat in the final minutes of last year’s AA Super Bowl, is not on the schedule.

La Salle hosts a six-team scrimmage on Aug 30, featuring Gloversville, Marlboro, Peru, Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk and Watervliet.

Althgouh they have some fresh faces, the Cadets feel that a lot of hard work is going to go a long way. And that all starts exactly at 7:59 every day.

“I tell the guys we’re going to start at 7:59 and if you’re later than that, you’re late,” Rapp said. “We stress being punctual here. In fact, we already had a few guys that came in late today that already had to do extras for us. And one of them was one of our big-name guys and he’s just like everybody else.”

The first day of practice always has its headaches – missing equipment, physicals, players learning the basic formations. But every team, even the oft mighty Cadets, have to start somewhere.

“Tomorrow will be a little smoother,” Rapp said, “we’ll be ready to go right at 8…7:59,” he corrected himself, laughing. “We expect them to be here early and working hard. I tell the kids, it doesn’t take talent to be on time and hustle, so if you can do those things, we’re off to a good start.”

---Horses Flying High in Class A: The Troy High Flying Horses had a wonderful offseason, joining with the NFL’s Play it Smart Program and spending a day with New York Giants defensive tackle Jay Alford. On Monday, Troy players got back to the gridiron, that much closer to the beginning of the season.

“There’s been a lot of good things and I said to the guys, all that stuff is nice, but it’s all building towards something,” said Troy head coach Jack Burger. “Hopefully it will make you a better person, a better football player, a better student. I think they believe in what we’re doing.”

The team will also compete in Class A this season, meaning traditional contests against La Salle and Albany will not be played.

“We’re back to some of our traditional rivals, such as Amsterdam and Bishop Maginn,” Burger said. “And we look to build some new rivals in Lansingburgh, Averill Park, schools like that. It’s exciting.”

Players like Zach Dolan, the returning senior quarterback, have the optimism in Troy at an all-time high. The Flying Horses are depending on veteran leadership from Dolan and wide receiver Lashawn Chapman to lead Troy to success in Class A.

“There’s a difference between being average and being good,” Burger said. “Just going the right direction doesn’t make you good. You have to go in the right direction with the right technique and finish things off. Some of the younger guys just aren’t used to the mental part of finishing things off.”

The Troy players have put in the effort with all the lifting, meetings and conditioning they’ve done since the 2007 season ended. It began to pay off on Monday and it will be tested when the Flying Horses host Queensbury in week one on Sept. 6 at Troy High.

“As I tell the guys, you only have control over one thing and that’s your preparation,” Burger said.

---Catholic High Iron Men: 38 players, varsity and junior varsity, came out to practice at Frear Park for Catholic Central on Monday, and small schools do not only deal with a numbers problem, but the size issue too.

“We still have equipment left, but I had to order new equipment,” said Catholic Central head coach Sam Marro. “The equipment we have left fits big guys. The new equipment I’m ordering fits the smaller guys. Everybody that’s coming to us is not as big as they were in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. We’re a small school, so we have small players.”

Although the Crusders missed the playoffs in 2007, they sent quarterback and defensive back Chris Bouchard to the University at Albany and wide receiver Zayquan Dupree is now playing at Alfred University.

A group of new players are fighting for playing time and the players that win starting spots are unlikely to leave the field. With such a small number of players, the Crusaders play three ways – offense, defense and special teams.

“What we end up doing is we worked them in the offseason to condition them for that,” Marro said. “We worked them hard in the weight room and in our agility program. This is a grind. It’s not unique to just us, every (Class) C school has it.”

A talented trio on the basketball court, Bouchard, Dupree and Gerard Jacques were crucial to the Crusdaers hardcourt team in the winter. With Bouchard and Dupree gone, Jacques is going to be CCHS’ go-to guy in 2008.

“Gerard Jacques has to step in and be our Zayquan,” Marro said. “We’ve got Pat Jansing and Andrew Clement competing at quarterback. I’m not going to put any pressure on them and say you’re the next Chris Bouchard, that’s impossible. Since I’ve been coaching HS football, (Bouchard was) the best quarterback I’ve seen. I just kept feeding him and feeding him and feeding him and he had an appetite to just devour everything you fed him.”

CCHS opens the season at home against pass-happy Fonda-Fultonville, down from Class B a year ago.


Let's hear it. Who do you like this year? Why?

--Will Montgomery

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Notes From Giants Camp

We will be starting the high school season beginning on Monday, but before we get to that, I thought I'd share a few notes from Giants camp this week.

Plaxico Burress, wearing orthotics in his cleats, practices with the wide receivers Thursday at Giants Camp at the University at Albany. (J.S. Carras - The Record)

Plaxico Burress returned to the practice field on Tuesday night, wearing full pads. It was the first time he had practiced this training camp and he has been limited since the 2007 training camp when he fell and hurt his right ankle. Burress spoke to the media on Thursday about returning to practice and he seemed excited to be out there practicing again.

Wide receiver Brandon London (19) scopes out the defense before a play at Giants camp on Thursday. (J.S. Carras - The Record)

In Burress' absence during camp - wideouts Mario Manningham, David Tyree, Steve Smith and Amani Toomer have also missed time - a crop of young receivers have a great opportunity to showcase their talents for Giants brass. Domenik Hixon joined the team last year as a free agent pickup midway through the season and impressed on kick returns and it looks like he'll make the team this time around. Michael Jennings, Craphonso Thorpe, Sinorice Moss and D.J. Hall are among the 11 receivers fighting for five or six spots on the final 53-man roster.

Brandon London (19) takes a break to discuss practice with Plaxico Burress (left) on Thursday. (J.S. Carras - The Record)

London has perhaps been the most impressive of the group of longshots trying to claw their way to a roster spot. He's from a football family - his father, Mike, is the head coach at the University of Richmond. Mike London also assisted as the defensive line coach with the Houston Texans in 2005 and after playing at Richmond in the 1980s, signed as a free agent with the Dallas Cowboys.

Brandon, like his father, came from a defensive background. He played safety and corner in his younger days but a growth spurt in high school led coaches to move him to the other side of the ball and he never looked back.

London graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 2006 and was a member of the Giants practice squad during the 2007 season.

One little conflict: his alma mater, UMass, plays Richmond this season.
"I’m excited to see what they do," London said about his father's Spiders. "Of course they’re going to lose to UMass, but…I don’t know who I’ll be cheering for in that game."

London caught three passes for 46 yards in the Giants preseason opener at Detroit and looked impressive in scrimmages this week at camp. With some of the starting wideouts on the sidelines, London worked in during three-wide sets and seemed to have a good rapport with quarterback Eli Manning , who pulled London aside after plays a few times.

"Opportunity is knocking right know," said London. "I have a good chance to make this team. And with the exposure I’m getting from these reps and these games, I’m going to take it and compete and compete and compete with myself and live up to my own expectations I have for myself."

Since London knows both sides of the ball better than most players in the NFL, he has fun ribbing the d-backs in camp.

"We mess around with the defense all the time," he said. "But we’re all a team and it’s a healthy competition out there. Nobody wants to be beat for six and nobody wants an interception to be made on them, so we’re out there continually getting ourselves better for the opener. We have some good defensive backs on this team, some real athletic defensive backs. You really have to be on top of your game when you’re going against some of them."

But the glue that ties together any NFL team isn't the camaraderie in the lockerroom or perfect execution on a two-minute drive that saves a team's season. No, it's plastic and you plug it in the wall. It has controllers.

That's right, video games. London got to know the No. 1 draft pick in the 2002 draft, David Carr, when they played Halo together at Texans camp in 2005. London, then a UMass student, was tagging along with his father, serving as a ballboy during Texans practices. The bond the pair created blasting away imaginary space aliens survived the years and when Carr walked into the Giants locker room in the spring after signing as a free agent, London couldn't wait to say hello.
"It’s funny to see (Carr) in the locker room when he came in during the spring," London recalled. "And I was like, 'hey man, remember me from Halo'?"

It also keeps the wide receivers and defensive backs loose after hours of heated competition on the fields at UAlbany.

"We jaw ‘em, we do all that," he said, "but when we get back to the dorms, we’re playing Madden, we’re playing college football. We’re just hanging out. It’s a good competition right there."

Giants fullback Madison Hedgecock chats with coaches during Tuesday's evening practice (Tom Killips - The Record)

Madison Hedgecock is another interesting cog in the Giants offense. He won't get many touches - he caught seven passes and did not get one carry in all of 2007 - but his run blocking skills pave the way for runners like Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward.

With NFL teams always looking for an edge, the true fullback is a dying breed on many pro clubs. They would rather go with super-versatile players who can block, carry and catch. But Hedgecock knows his value to the team.

"They might use a tight end instead of a fullback now," he said about pro coaching staffs. "They just want to merge positions. They'll still have a tight end that can hit like a fullback, or supposedly can, that's how the game has changed."

Jacobs and Ward combined for over 1,600 yards last year and time will tell how effective the G-Men will be on the ground in 2008.

Hedgecock heads towards the flat during a passing play at Giants practice on Tuesday. (Tom Killips - The Record)

Some folks you might recognize from watching the NFL on TV on Sundays were roaming the sidelines. I saw Curt Menefee and Jay Glazer on Tuesday and Peter King showed up on Thursday afternoon.
He was overheard favoring the Cowboys and the Redskins in the NFC East this season and also mentioned that the Carolina Panthers should be much improved.
It also sounded like he got a speeding ticket on his way to Albany.
Too much coffee, Pete. Slow down.

--Will Montgomery

Friday, August 8, 2008

Dodgers Beat Homestanding Owasso, Move On In Mantle WS

OWASSO, Okla. - The South Troy Dodgers had their hands full on Friday, playing the host Owasso Rams in an elimination game of the 15-and-under Mickey Mantle World Series.
But South Troy starter Christian Miller held Owasso to three runs over five innings of work and Josh Ingham shut the door in the seventh inning, leading the Dodgers to a 9-6 victory at Stigall Field.
Stephen Ziter and David Grimes had a double and a single each for South Troy. Mike Doyle added two singles for the Dodgers.
South Troy plays again today against the Texas Stix in a loser’s bracket game at 11:30 a.m. CST. The Dallas Mustangs and the Dallas Patriots meet in the other matchup – the Patriots are the only undefeated team remaining. Brooklyn Youth Service drew a bye.

South Troy 020 340 0 – 9 9 4
Owasso 001 113 0 – 6 9 2
Miller, Ingham (6) and Galluppi. Wilson and Runka.


Midsummer News and Notes

From left, amateur boxers Shane Durand, Curtis Graham and Shawn Miller at a press conference Tuesday at The Joe. (Mike McMahon/The Record)

A crew of local boxers will enter the ring Saturday night at Joe Bruno Stadium in the second annual KO at the Joe. This year's event will features amateur boxers only.
Shawn Miller, a 26-year-old Troy native, is the featured boxer and
he hopes to continue in the family footsteps. His older brother, Shannon, won a heavyweight bout in the 2007 event.

The card will feature some young, up-and-coming fighters. Shane Durand, 11, picked up the sport after tagging along to a class with his step-brother. He said he was excited to fight in front of the "home crowd" and fight promoter Rick Sweeney called Durand "somebody to keep your eye on for the future."
He is 7-2 so far in his young career.
Gates open at 5 p.m. on Saturday with the first bell rung at 6. General admission tickets cost $15, kids under 12 get in for $10 and children under 5 are free.

A Field of Dreams at Saint Rose
Joseph Plumeri, a multimillionaire co-owner of the Trenton Thunder, the New York Yankees' Class-AA affiliate, came to the College of Saint Rose in 2006 to give the commencement address. Other than a long-standing friendship with Dan Nolan, Saint Rose's chair of the board of trustees, Plumeri had no connections to Albany or Saint Rose. A week before the graduation ceremony, Saint Rose's long-time baseball coach, Bob Bellizzi, passed away of leukemia.

The school used the
congregation to honor Bellizzi, who in his 28-year career at Saint Rose, took the team from the club level to four NCAA tournament berths.

Plumeri was so taken by the tribute to Bellizzi that he decided, while sitting on stage, waiting to give his address, that he would donate $100,000 to the school for the construction of a new baseball field in Bellizzi's honor.
Well, two years later, Plumeri had a change of heart. He's now giving the school $1 million towards a renovation of Albany's Howard Park (near the south end of 787) with new baseball and softball fields being built, along with a synthetic turf multipurpose field for soccer and lacrosse.

The 'Joseph Plumeri Sports Complex' will also be a boon for the South End. The city will still retain ownership of the park and summer camps and high school teams will also make use of the facility.

The one catch is that the facility is estimated to cost $4 to $4.5 million to construct (depending on how intricate the school wants to get with stands, locker rooms and a press box). Saint Rose is launching a fundraising operation to match Plumeri's gift and he will match any amount Saint Rose can raise over $1 million.

It should change the attitude at Saint Rose - which is crazy for its basketball teams, which are usually very successful - but lackadaisical about the outdoor sports. Part of the problem was Saint Rose' location. An urban school, it is landlocked for green space. The soccer teams played their home games at Albany Academy; the baseball team made Bleecker Stadium home; and the softball team travelled ten miles one-way to get to the Rotterdam Girls Softball League complex for its home games.

With a new facility a few blocks away (the school is planning to run student shuttles to the Plumeri complex for home games) support for the teams will likely increase. But much will depend on how well the college can raise funds in the coming year.

Two notes on the ValleyCats.
The Houston Astros organization is holding an open tryout at Bruno Stadium on Monday, August 11. Participants must be at least 16 years old with proof of age.
Any players selected in the 2008 Major League Draft are not eligible. American Legion players must bring a letter from their coach granting permission.
For more information, click here.

Also, the 'Cats are hosting the New York-Penn League All-Star game on August 19.

High School Football Starts on August 18 We're getting excited about the upcoming high school football season and one reason is the strength of Class A.
Troy High typically plays with the big boys in Class AA, but because of slightly lower enrollment numbers, will play at the A level in 2008.
Consider the other local talent in the 'A' division. Lansingburgh, Bishop Maginn, Burnt Hills, Amsterdam and Glens Falls have all done very well in recent years. Adding Troy to the mix only makes this Class stronger.

It's no wonder these Class A teams are dominant year after year - they have some of the area's top coaches. Joe Grasso (Maginn) has 172 career victories, Pat Liverio (Amsterdam) has 107 , Jack Burger (Troy) 95, Pete Porcelli (Lansingburgh) 69, Pat Lilac (Glens Falls) 50 and Matt Shell at Burnt Hills has 40 wins in six years at the helm.

You can visit for a wonderful look at all sorts of Section II records.

Troy's week two game at Amsterdam should be one of the best early-season games this year. Jack Burger will likely win his 100th career game this season.

In Class AA, La Salle's Marquis Terrell returns for his senior season. You may remember his 365-yard rushing performance against Schenectady last season, the No. 10 all-time single-game performance in Section II history. He also ran for 308 against Monroe-Woodbury in the state playoffs, good for 29th in Section II.

But with La Salle and Troy not playing each other this season, the marquee Collar City game becomes the Troy-Lansingburgh clash on October 17, at the 'Burgh.

A few local baseball teams are still advancing in their postseason tournaments.
The South Troy Dodgers' 15-and-under Mickey Mantle team is competing in the World Series in Owasso, Okla.
You can keep up with the tournament by clicking on which has great picture galleries from the games. Can anyone identify the Dodgers player above?

The Dodgers play host team Owasso in a loser's bracket game Friday afternoon.
A photo gallery from their Aug. 7 game against the Brooklyn Youth Service can be viewed by clicking here.

OWASSO, Okla. - Three errors proved very costly for the South Troy Dodgers Sandy Koufax 15 & under team at the AABC World Series on Thursday.
The Dodgers, who defeated Las Cruces 9-2 on Tuesday, were leading 3-0 in the bottom of the third when the Youth Service (Brooklyn) Blue Devils struck for seven runs as South Troy committed a trio of errors.
The Dodgers scored three runs in the top of the fifth to pull within one run, but could come no closer.
Brendan Dalcol doubled and singled for South Troy, which will take on the host Owasso team today at 4:30 p.m. Josh Ingham added two singles.

South Troy Dodgers (1-1) 021 030 0 - 6 7 3
Youth Service 007 000 x - 7 7 3
Bariteau, Doyle (6) and Adams; Vega, Frail (7) and Galceinospan
In Schenectady and Albany, the 2008 Stan Musial North Atlantic Regionals are going on with two Twilight League teams, the Albany Athletics and Davies AC still in the mix.
Keep up with the Musials by clicking here.

Anything we missed? Keep in touch: troyrecordsports [at] gmail [dot] com

--Will Montgomery

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Albany Academy = AA

As fall sports schedules are starting to trickle in, just wanted to pass along this note about boys high school basketball.
Albany Academy is moving up to Class AA from Class A and will compete as an independent in 2008-09, not a member of the Colonial Council.

Here is there tentative schedule for the upcoming season.

It's certainly a great program that's run at Academy -- they went to Texas last winter and played some of the top talent in the nation. But, this is a novel situation for local teams. I can't think of any team in recent memory that played an independent schedule like this. The Cadets will play in the Catholic High Crusader Tournament to kick off the season in November - which should be a great introduction to Class AA.
But it looks like they're heading to at least three tournaments out of the area during the regular season - one in Florida and two in New York City. I think this could be a great experience for the players and another opportunity for the program to make a name for itself.

Do you think there will be any backlash with a team like Academy playing a premier national schedule during the season and then matching up with teams from the Big 10 and the Suburban Council in the sectional playoffs? How would the committee seed Academy against these teams that haven't played comparable schedules?

The Coaches vs Cancer event at Siena College should be another great day of basketball and the Cadets should again be a very good team. But come sectional time, don't be surprised to hear some grumbling from Suburban and Big 10 teams claiming the playoffs are unfair because they can't compete with the likes of Academy.

Fire away in the comments.
Anyway, the countdown to the first day of high school football practice is just 12 days away.

-- Will Montgomery

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

South Troy 15s win World Series Opener

The South Troy Dodgers topped Las Cruces (NM) 9-2 on the opening day of the AABC 15-and-under Mickey Mantle World Series in Owasso, Oklahoma.
Brandon Dalcol, David Grimes and Christian Miller had two hits a piece for the Dodgers. Dalcol with a double and single, Grimes a triple and single and Miller with two singles.

South Troy starter Nick Cioffi struck out six in five and one-third innings before being relieved by Peter Quandt .

The Dodgers (33-12-2) earn a bye into round three on Thursday where they'll face the Brooklyn Youth Service/Broken Arrow (OK) winner.

The Dodgers went 5-0 in the New York State Tournament beating Ballston Spa 5-4 in eight innings in the championship game to book the trip to the World Series.

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More Accolades For Maginn's Buie

Class of 2010 prospect Taran Buie skies in for a dunk during Thursday's 16-under AAU Super Showcase. (Photo - Les Bentley for

Bishop Maginn junior-to-be Taran Buie was featured in a picture and a story by Reggie Rankin on last week after leading the Albany City Rocks to a second-place finish in the national 16-and-under AAU tournament in Orlando, Fl.

Click here to read the whole story.

Maginn won the 2008 NYS Class AA title and earned a berth in the Federation Tournament of Champions. Maginn lost a few keys seniors to graduation -- Shimeek Johnson (Fairfield), Terron Victoria (Skidmore) and Antonio Davis (Norwich University) will be dearly missed -- but with Buie ascending, the Griffins are poised to make another run at a state title in 2009.

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

David Tyree Is A Fan

David Tyree holds a copy of The Record right to the spot where he caught the pass that set up the Giants' Super Bowl title earlier this year.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Classie Lassies Eyeing National Titles

William Montgomery

The Record

It is national tournament time for youth softball teams around the country and a trio of homegrown teams from Wynantskill is hoping to continue to extend the legacy of the Classie Lassies girls softball league.

The Classie Lassies are sending a 10-and-under team, the Aftershock, to York, Penn. for the Eastern National Championships after the team placed third in the New York State Tournament on June 29. A 12-and-under team, the Lightning, is also bound for York to complete in the nationals and the league’s 14-and-under All-Stars, nicknamed the Thunder, are competing in Sterling, Va.

The Lightning automatically qualified for the tournament because the Classie Lassies 10-and-under team won a national championship in 2007 and a good number of those players now compete on the 12-and-under squad.

Caraline Wood, Rachel Apfel and MacKenzie Bump are three of the top players on the 10-and-under team, coached by Keith Akots. Jenna Miner and Hannah Filuta are also big contributors at shortstop for the Aftershock.

Shannon Johnson is the leading pitcher for the 12-and-under Lightning and stands to see most of the time in the pitcher’s circle in their tournament.

The 14-and-under team, nicknamed Thunder, feature Troy High players Julie Brinkman, Gabby Daniels and Liz Belleville. Belleville, a sophomore-to-be, played first base and pitched, guiding the Flying Horses to their third consecutive Big 10 title and went 12-7 with a 2.50 ERA in the pitcher’s circle, earning recognition on The Record’s All-Area team in 2008.

The Thunder went 7-0 in the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) New York State Tournament in Saratoga in late June, capturing the New York State title. A state championship earned the team a berth in the ASA’s National Tournament, which concludes this weekend in Sterling, Va.

In their first day of the 26-team double elimination tournament, the Thunder beat the Gainesville Gladiators (Va.) 9-1 and the Pennsylvania Renegades 7-3. Brinkman pitched in the opener against Gainesville and Belleville entered the circle in the second game.

“They’ve been together since they were 10 years old,” said Thunder head coach Matt Brinkman. “Five years now. They play together well and by this point, they know each other well.”

Emily Johnson, a freshman-to-be at Tamarac High and Molly Fryer of Averill Park are also standouts on the team. Amanda Agee, who played on the Ichabod Crane JV squad in 2008, is the team’s third pitcher.

All three tournaments the Classie Lassies teams compete in conclude on Aug. 3.

Softball has been a mainstay in Wynantskill since 1974, when the Classie Lassies league began with about 150 players. Now, the league has its own field complex on Edwards Road and a year-round schedule of clinics and practices.

“We started small, but we’ve been up to 500 kids for about five straight years,” said league President Doug Baldrey, who has been a board member since 1986. “We’re really big in the younger age groups and I think it’s a good feeder program.”

Baldrey got involved with the Lassies when his sister played and has been the league president off and on since the mid 1980s and has been on the board in all but one of the last 22 years.

Since the girls can play on school-affiliated teams beginning in middle school, the Classie Lassies provide an alternative for girls that would otherwise be playing Tee-Ball or Little League with the boys until then.

There are a number of other local softball teams competing in national tournaments, including the Brunswick Blast and the Lansingburgh Lady Royals. But those teams are handpicked, comprised of the top players from around the area – the Classie Lassies teams are All-Star teams of girls only from Lassies league teams.

And as softball has grown in popularity opportunities for teams have expanded as well.

“It used to be just the ASA,” Baldrey said. “But with PONY, Fastpitch and other leagues, there are more nationals to go to. ASA is still considered the premier tournament to go to.”

The ASA, however, has changed its rules as more and more teams enter competitions. Oklahoma City was once the site of a true nation-wide championship each year, but the ASA has instituted four regional-national tournaments: north, south, east and west. So there are actually four national champions, one from each region.

The tournaments are purely a fun journey for the girls – there are no college scouts taking notes in the stands, only families cheering their daughters. Ceremonies are scheduled, as the players bring pins to trade with opponents and they all get together for a barbeque social after the tournament.

“It’s more about the experience of going,” Baldrey said. “It’s about being there and seeing that caliber of softball. It gives them an idea of how good they really could be and the mindset of ‘I really need to strive for more. What do I need to do to get there?”

Visit for more information on the organization.

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