Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Class B Preview

COHOES – 2006 marked the lowest of lows for the Cohoes High football program. The Tigers bumbled their way to an 0-9 season before rebounding with four wins in 2007.
But a trio of seniors - the team captains – used the memories from their sub-par sophomore year to lead Cohoes through an award-winning offseason.
Greg Mollnow, an offensive and defensive lineman, guided the Tigers to the overall team championship in the 2008 Lineman Challenge at the University at Albany. To take that honor, Cohoes beat out 27 five-man teams, including Class AA schools such as Shenendehowa and La Salle.
Mark Gallerie made the transition from wide receiver to quarterback in the middle of last season and took Cohoes to the finals of the second annual Tiger Shootout, a 7-on-7 passing camp held at Cohoes in July.
The team’s vocal leader, tight end and linebacker Sean Littlejohn, kept the team motivated in the weight room ever since last season ended and has the Tigers aiming high in the Class B Reinfurt Division.

Tom Durant wins the reverse tug-of-war aginst Sean Littlejohn in front of onlooking teammates during a recent practice. (Tom Killips - The Record).

“We’re ready,” Littlejohn said. “We’re hungry for some more. We have a lot of experienced players, not only seniors, coming back. Some of the juniors this year were playing as freshman. So we have a lot of experience and we think we’re going to go out with a bang. This is definitely the year.”
The football program at Cohoes doesn’t have the most storied history. Since 1950 (Cohoes did not field a team from 1961-66 and again from 1979-87) the Tigers amassed a 90-235-13 record and only four winning seasons.
But after the dreadful 2006 campaign, Mollnow, Gallerie and Littlejohn created a new culture and a new attitude at Cohoes, turning their love for football into a year-round dedication.
“They have grown and matured over this process and they are the biggest part of this process,” said Cohoes head coach James Ducharme of his tri-captains. “Us as coaches want to do all these things, but if they players don’t buy into it, we can’t do any of this stuff.”

Mark Gallerie (right) stretches out with Sean Littlejohn during a recent practice. (Tom Killips - The Record)

Ducharme started the Tiger Shootout prior to the 2007 season and Cohoes finished sixth out of seven schools in attendance in the inaugural running. But just over a month ago, the Tigers went toe-to-toe with Troy High and outlasted large schools such as Averill Park and South Glens Falls and Class C powerhouse Schuylerville.
And in this year’s Columbia High Blue Devil Lift-Off, Cohoes took home seven medals and their top five lifters bested their medal-less 2007 performance by raising over 1,000 pounds each.
“Many of us play sports in the other seasons but we’re trying to turn it into a year-round sport,” Gallerie said. “We get together during the offseason to practice and get reps in of everything we need to do during the season.”
Gallerie plays on the basketball team and Mollnow is a wrestler. Littlejohn is a standout on the baseball diamond.
With only seven regular season games – only five of them in the Reinfurt Division – the Cohoes captains find time to put in the extra effort because every single play on the gridiron is crucial as the Tigers try to secure a playoff spot.
“As a team, we’re trying to get better throughout the whole year, instead of putting two months in,” said Mollnow. “We’re putting the whole year into the season.”
Not only are the Tigers hungrier than ever, they are also loaded with talent. The team lost few players to graduation and running back Steve Weaver, who ran for over 500 yards last year, is back for his senior campaign.
“We should make some noise this year,” Gallerie said. “With the amount of returning players we have from last year, and we’ve been together for almost three years now, we should know most of the plays together.”
Although it appears everything has finally aligned for the Cohoes program, Ducharme reminds the players that the victories are not automatic.
“We have a lot of kids coming back who have experience and have played at the varsity level two years in a row,” he said. “That’s good on paper, but how we perform still remains to be seen. We’ll find out in week one how we stand.”
For the past nine months the Tigers have been dreaming about football in the weight room, in the gym and on the practice field. When Cohoes opens the season Friday night in Johnstown, they will finally get their chance to put all that hard work to use.
“We’re just excited to get out there on the field, play together as a team and see what we can do as a team,” said Gallerie. “For most of us, it’s our senior year. We want to go out and shine.”

Two minute drill
Players to watch

Jimmer Bennett, senior wide receiver, Albany Academy, 5-10, 185
Bennett is already the Section II career leader in receptions (122) and receiving yards (2,080). His 1,080 yards on 61 catches a year ago helped lead the Cadets to a 4-1 league record, but Academy finished 4-5 overall.

Joe McMurry, senior running back, Hudson Falls, 5-11, 180
Ran for over 1,400 yards on the season, including a 435-yard performance against Albany Academy in the first round of sectionals. It is the second-highest single-game output by any back in Section II history.

Tim Hammond, senior defensive line, offensive tackle, Hudson Falls, 6-7, 305
Hammond is also known for his shot put skills and exploits on the wrestling mat, but the mammoth lineman will make a name for himself in 2008 pushing would-be tacklers out of the way.

Corey Caswell, senior quarterback, Broadalbin-Perth, 5-8, 180
Threw for over 500 yards in 2007, but with the loss of running back Mike Hayes (a 1,400-yard rusher) the Patriots are likely to turn to the skies. Thann Akey, a senior wideout, will likely be Caswell’s main target.

Charles Willoughby, senior running back, Cobleskill-Richmondville, 5-11, 160
The Bulldogs had a magical run in 2007, going 10-1 and winning a Section II championship. A large numbers of players graduated, meaning Willoughby will need to make the leap.

Mike Jones, senior tight end, defensive end, Ravena, 6-1, 165
Jones picked up two sacks last year and figures to be a disruptive force on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The Indians won the Reinfurt Division last year and should again be among the best in Class B.

Nick Zapp, senior running back, Hudson, 6-1, 205
The Bluehawks struggled through a disappointing 1-7 season and lost a number of seniors, but Zapp figures to get the bulk of the carries in a wide-open Reinfurt Division.

Nolan Boice, junior fullback and linebacker, Taconic Hills, 6-1, 240
A powerful runner who is hard to bring down between the tackles, Boice should lead the Titans to an improvement on 2007’s 0-9 record.

Steve Weaver, senior running back, Cohoes, 5-7, 150
The Tigers should have an exciting passing game thanks to quarterback Mark Gallerie, but Weaver will be Cohoes’ workhorse in the ground attack.

Craig Cook, senior running back, Johnstown, 5-10, 185
Cook led the Sir Bills with 612 yards on the ground as a junior, but the team struggled to a 3-6 finish. Johnstown should be much improved over 2007, but they are stuck in the West Division with stellar teams such as Hudson Falls, Cobleskill and Broadalbin.

DaShawn Banks, junior running back, Schalmont, 5-10, 160
Banks had a strong showing as a sophomore, including a 109-yard rushing performance against Taconic Hills. But the Sabres, like Johnstown, are stuck in the tough-as-nails West Division.

Class B Preseason Poll

1. Hudson Falls – The Tigers have a true workhorse in Joe McMurry and they plan on riding him all the way to the Class B Super Bowl. Bill Strong takes over as head coach for Tom Heinzelman, who retired after 25 years at the helm. If McMurry can perform close to last year’s level, the Tigers are the cream of the crop in Class B.
2. Albany Academy – Tony Fruscio had success at Troy High and with a wide receiver like Jimmer Bennet, it won’t be long before the Cadets take off under his presence. Brian McDonald, last year’s quarterback, graduated, meaning Bennett will have to adapt to a new signalcaller.
3. Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk – Quarterback Keith Hoyt and running back Nick LaMountain are going to lead the squad and their spread-option approach. The Indians matchup against Cohoes in week five should be one of the best games in the Class all season.
4. Broadalbin-Perth - The Patriots lost stellar running back Mike Hayes to graduation, but return the nucleus of a solid passing game in quarterback Corey Caswell and Thann Akey. With Cobleksill-Richmondville also losing many players, Broadalbin should make a push with Hudson Falls for the West Division crown.
5. Cohoes – The Tigers will play their two biggest Reinfurt Division games on the road, traveling to Albany Academy in week three and to Ravena in week five. Their talented group of seniors know it is now or never to make a name for Cohoes football at the varsity level.

Class B Week One Schedule
Friday, Sept. 5
Cairo-Durham at Cobleskill-Richmondville, 7 p.m.
Cohoes at Johnstown, 7 p.m.
Broadalbin-Perth at Hudson, 7 p.m.
Hudson Falls at Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, 7 p.m.
Mechanicville at Taconic Hills, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 6
Schalmont at Albany Academy, 1:30 p.m.

2007 CLASS B Standings
League Overall
Reinfurt Division
Ravena-Cymns-Selkirk 5-0 8-2
Albany Academy 4-1 4-5
Cohoes 3-2 4-5
Hudson 2-3 2-7
Cairo-Durham 1-4 1-8
Taconic Hills 0-5 0-9

West Division
Cobleskill-Richmondville 5-0 10-1
Broadalbin-Perth 4-1 7-2
Hudson Falls 3-2 6-3
Fonda-Fultonville 2-3 5-4
Johnstown 1-4 3-6
Schalmont 0-5 3-6

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