Monday, August 31, 2009

Training camp report: Colonie

Chris Cossart is a two-way terror up the middle for the Colonie Garnet Raiders, playing center and nose tackle. A history buff, he's primed for a big senior season. (Photos by Mike McMahon - The Record).

Cossart spends his free time coaching at Colonie Pop Warner and you may be hearing his name in the future as a varsity high school coach, too. He's planning on majoring in secondary education in college and teaching history and coaching after graduation.

After a one-year experiment with the spread, the Raiders are getting back to a power running game under head coach Mike Ambrosio, who spent the 2008 season coaching the freshmen in Colonie while watching his son, Mark, finish his senior season at Shaker.

"It’s exciting. I’m happy," Cossart said of Ambrosio's return. "We have a whole new offense coming in and I like it better. It’s more Colonie than last year. You can’t put in a new offense and expect it to work in one year."

Senior quarterback Mike Branche is a three-sport athlete at Colonie, also participating in basketball and baseball. He's also busy in the summer with AAU hoops and Connie Mack baseball.

It's no surprise the Raiders are geeked about the season - just like any good baseball team, they're strong up the middle. Since Cossart and Branche get things going on every single offensive play, they both admitted their strong relationship makes things much easier.

"I think we have a great relationship," Branche said. "In practice, we split up by positions, so that’s when he gets his chance to lead the linemen when he’s with them and I get my chance with the receivers and running backs. So we’re on the same page leading our specific players and it works out well because we’re great friends off the field too, so we know what each other is thinking."

Colonie's change in strategy on the offensive side will likely cut down on Branche's throwing attempts, but that's fine with him.

"I definitely watch the college games and see them throw the ball all the time and I think that’s great for them, but anything that makes us win, I’ll do," said Branche. "If I have to hand the ball off, I mean, we have plenty of great running backs, so I’ll hand the ball off. I’m just doing it to win."

The Raiders struggled to a sub-.500 record in 2008, but with the return of their head coach and a strong senior class, they're looking to make it back to the Super Bowl, something they believe is a realistic goal.

"Last year definitely frustrated a lot of players and it made a lot of people work hard," Branche said. "We have a great JV group coming up and those players are very talented. We have a lot of hard workers, so we have high expectations for ourselves and we’re just going to keep working hard."

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