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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