Tuesday, September 2, 2008

CLASS C PREVIEW

WATERVLIET — It’s not easy being the one who must replace a team leader.
Last year, the Watervliet Cannoneers bounced back from consecutive losing seasons, nearly unheard of for the garnet and grey, finished with a 7-2 record and made a sectional appearance.
Now the Cannoneers are out to prove last year was no fluke and that the proud and storied program at Watervliet is back in a big way.
The only thing is the play caller that led that resurrection on the field, Mike Cooney, has graduated.
So in steps Chris Hughes the man that now must replace “the man” and that’s okay with him.
The 5-foot-10, 145-pound senior saw limited action under center last year, playing only late in games in which the Cannoneers had built a sizable lead.
This year, things will be different.
The wiry quarterback, who spent most of his time at free safety last year, will be in charge of Watervliet’s offensive arsenal from the first snap of week one.
“That first quarter,” said Hughes when asked if first game jitters will affect him. “I just have to get through that first quarter and I’ll be ready. I got a little experience (last season), I got the shakes out.”
Erick Bernard, The Record’s coach-of-the-year last season, said his team is ready to keep moving forward and Hughes can be the man to lead them.
“(Mike Cooney) that’s a big loss but Chris Hughes is going to fill in,” Bernard said. “He didn’t really get to play much last year, but he’s an athlete so I think he’ll step up and fill Cooney’s shoes.”
“Mike was such a great passer and just a great quarterback in every way. Obviously, for us to go places, Chris has to have a great year. We have confidence in him, we have faith in him and I think he has confidence in himself. I think he’s going to do a great job.”
Hughes will look to forge a name for himself at quarterback by sticking to what he does best.
He describes himself as a mobile-type quarterback who likes to scramble and throw from outside the pocket and he has the speed and athleticism to do just that. Last year, that athleticism earned Hughes a Class C South Division first-team All-Star selection at defensive back.
Despite the lack of experience under center, Hughes has displayed a confident air about him on the practice fields before week one.
“I just worked hard in the off season,” he said. “I knew if I worked as hard as I could that things I wanted to happen would happen.”
Cannoneer fullback/linebacker Caleb Gleason is confident Hughes will be fine.
“Chris has a natural swagger to him,” he said. “It’s not hard for him to find confidence. It helps that he’s completing passes here (at practice) and throwing touchdowns. We have confidence in him he’s untested, but we think he’ll be fine. He’s a good athlete so he’ll do fine. He can’t try and be Mike, he has to just be Chris.”

Watervliet quarterback Chris Hughes rifles a pass in practice last week. (JS Carras-The Record)




Hughes won’t be asked to do it all on his own on offense — a talented group of ball carriers will join Hughes in the backfield.
In fact, the running back position may be the strongest spot on the field for the Cannoneers.
“We have running back by committee,” said Gleason, a Record All-Area selection last year. “I think every single one of our running backs could start anywhere.”
Joining Gleason in the backfield will be Ahkeim Thompson, a Class C South Division second-team All-Star, and Matt Kodadar.
“We have two good running backs, two studs back there,” Hughes said of his trio of backs. “It takes the pressure off me, handing it to them. Even our backup running backs are good, they’re solid. That’s why we’re so good, we’re really deep at our skill positions. I don’t have to carry the load all by myself.”
Hughes and company are well aware of the tradition of excellence at Watervliet. The seniors endured the losing seasons in 2005 and 2006, the first since a 2-7 finish in 1981. The Cannoneers have won 13 league championships, eight sectional championships and three state titles. Bernard played on the 1990 and 1991 Watervliet teams that went undefeated and won back-to-back state championships. He said he reminds his players every day that as Cannoneers they’re a part of something special.
“This has always been a storied tradition around here,” he said. “We always let them now (of the tradition) there’s stuff in the weight room hanging on the walls, coach (Dan) Reinfurt was here and all the other previous coaches that have done a phenomenal job.”
Hughes always wanted to contribute to that condition and now he’s got his shot.
“That’s why I work so hard,” he said. “When I was little I used to come to the games and I saw them beating teams and I always wanted to be a part of that. My freshman and sophomore year it just wasn’t good, but we’ve turned it around.”


Cannoneer running back Caleb Gleason takes a hand off during practice last week. (JS Carras-The Record)

Players to Watch
Parker Niles, Chatham Sr. QB 6-1, 160
Niles takes over at quarterback after backing up Zack Kraham for three years. Niles was a Class C South Division first-team all-star at special teams so the athleticism is certainly there. The Panthers have speed at the skill positions for Niles to exploit and it should be interesting to watch Niles develop at quarterback.

Caleb Gleason, Watervliet Sr. RB, LB 6-0, 235
Gleason does it all for the Cannoneers and he does is all well. The six-foot, 235-pound senior plays fullback, linebacker, kicker, punter and serves as the teams back up quarterback. He was a member of The Record’s All-Area first team at linebacker and is a three-time all-area selection for baseball.

Josh Nethaway, Fonda-Fultonville Sr., QB 6-1, 210
Nethaway was one of the top passers in all of Section II last year. The Braves field general finished fourth in the section in passing (1128 yards) and third in touchdowns (16). Nethaway could have another big year as the Braves move down in class from B to C. Nethaway and the explosive Fonda offense take on the Central in week one.

Austin Bateman, Schuylerville Sr. QB 5-10, 170
Bateman was a Class C first-team All-Star at defensive back and a second teamer at quarterback last year. The senior is a threat both with his arm and his legs. Bateman threw for 518 yards and five touchdowns while running for nine.

Quinten Herrington, Cambridge Sr. OL 6-6, 235
Herrington will anchor what should be the Indians strength this year-the offensive line. A Class C All-State team member Herrington and his fellow lineman have a new quarterback to protect after the graduation of Shea Bromirski. Offensive linemen don’t get a lot of hype but Herrington will be key ingredient if the young Indians are to have a successful season.

Shane Larkin, Schuylerville Sr. RB 6-0, 215
Larkin was a first-team Class C all-star at running back last year. He was in the top ten in section II for rushing touchdowns and ran for over 800 yards. With Larkin and Bateman in the backfield the Black Horse offense should be explosive this year.

Kevin Woods, Hoosick Falls, Sr. QB 5-10, 170
Woods was a Class C first team All-Star last year and for good reason. The Panther quarterback finished seventh in passing yards (1042) and 10th in touchdowns (9) in all of Section II. He leads Hoosick Falls against reigning Class C champions Cambridge in week one.

Kevin Hanson, Fonda-Fultonville, Sr. WR 6-2, 185
Hanson was the top receiver in one of the top offenses in Section II last year. His 12 touchdown receptions were the most in the section. With his partner Josh Nethaway returning at quarter¬back and a drop in class from B to C, Hanson could put up even bigger numbers this year.

Class C Preseason Poll
North Division

1. Schuylerville-The Black Horses came within one point of cap¬turing the Class C title last year in a 21-20 loss to Cambridge. They have a good shot at getting back to the title game again this year with many key starters returning on both sides of the ball. Possibly the best offense in the section and a solid defense puts the Black Horses in the top spot heading into week one.
2. Cambridge-The Indians made it all the way to the state semi¬finals last year before falling to Dobbs Ferry of Section I. The reigning Section II champs lost a lot of that group to graduation, including quarterback and North Division Player-of-the-Year Shea Bromirski. Cambridge has been one of the top programs in the area under head coach Doug Luke. He has a 100-14 record, heading into his 12th year as Indians coach. The Indians travel to Hoosick Falls in week one.
3. Hoosick Falls-Panthers quarterback Kevin Woods, a first-team Class C all-star, returns for his senior season, looking to lead his team to a playoff position. Woods tallied 16 touchdowns through the air and on the ground last year. Hoosick Falls was the Class C champ in 2006, but the league is as competitive as ever this year, making a title shot all the more difficult for the Panthers.
4. Corinth-The Corinth defense should be the strength of the team this year with first-team linebacker Mike Rubel and defensive back C.J. Saunders returning from last years team that went 6-3. Saunders and Rubel are also threats on the offensive side of the ball at wide receiver and running back. They’ll be tested right out of the gate with a first week matchup at Schuylerville.
5. Mechanicville-There are a few teams that could fit into the fifth spot in the North but the Red Raiders will get the nod in week one. The Red Raiders could be the wild card of the North Division with their success, depending on who steps up to replace gradu¬ated seniors like quarterback Paul MacMillan. They open up on the road in a non-league matchup with Taconic Hills of Class B.
South Division
1. Watervliet-The Cannoneers lost quarterback Mike Cooney to graduation, but will feature one of the best ground games in the league this year. Caleb Gleason and company will see plenty of carries, taking some of the pressure off Chris Hughes, who moves from defensive back to quarterback this year.
2. Fonda-Fultonville-The Braves could just as easily be in that top spot. The top two in this league are interchangeable when it comes to skill. The Braves have talent in droves on the offensive side of the ball with quarterback Josh Nethaway and a bevy of tal¬ented receivers and backs. Fonda returns 11 players from last years team that lost to Ravena in the class B quarterfinals. They move down in class from B to C this year and should make a run at the league title.
3. Voorheesville-The Blackbirds are a young team with just four returning starters from last years 6-3 team. Sophomore Ryan Duncan will take over the quarterbacking duties and should have a solid offensive line to protect him. Three of the four Voorheesville returning starters are on the O-line in Mike Snyder, CJ Bouvier and Chad Hoffart.
4. Chatham-The Panthers went 7-2 last year, but lost South Division player-of-the-year Zach Kraham to graduation. Head coach Mark Dwyer feels his team will have more depth this year, though, with speed at the skill positions and good size on the offensive line. Parker Niles will start at quarterback and should be plenty familiar with coach Dwyer’s offensive system after back¬ing up Kraham for three years.
5. Tamarac- Coach Roadcap’s team returns 13 seniors from a 3-6 2007 campaign. The Bengals should be a lot deeper than in the past, thanks to a 24-man varsity squad. First-team South Division defensive end Brent Matazinsky and second-team linebacker Kyle Morse will anchor the Tamarac defense and expect second-team running back Phil Arnold to see plenty of carries on offense.

Class C Schedule
Week One
Friday, September 5
North Division
Corinth at Schuylerville 7 p.m.
Cambridge at Hoosick Falls 7 p.m.
South Division
Watervliet at Chatham 7 p.m.
Fonda at Catholic Central 7 p.m.
Non-league
Mechanicville at Taconic Hills 7 p.m.
Saturday, September 6
North Divsion
Stillwater at Granville 1:30 p.m.
South Division
Tamarac at Voorheesville 1:30 p.m.
Coxsackie-Athens at Hoosic Valley 1:30 p.m.
CLASS C 2007 Standings
North Division W L W L
Cambridge (9) 7 0 11 1
Schuylerville (12) 6 1 8 2
Corinth 5 2 6 3
Hoosick Falls 4 3 4 5
Greenwich 3 4 4 5
Stillwater 2 5 3 6
Lake George 1 6 2 7
Granville 0 7 0 8
South Division W L W L
Chatham (13) 6 1 7 2
Watervliet (17) 6 1 7 2
Voorheesville 5 2 6 3
Coxsackie-Athens 5 2 5 4
Mechanicville 3 4 5 4
Tamarac 2 5 3 6
Catholic Central 1 6 3 6
Hoosic Valley 0 7 2 7
*Numbers in parenthesis indicate final 2007 state ranking

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