Friday, August 21, 2009

Training camp report: Shaker High School

Shaker's Jaquell Chandler leaps to snare a ball during drills at a recent practice behind Shaker High School. He was a team captain in 2008 as a junior. (Photos by Mike McMahon - The Record).

The Blue Bison struggled a little bit in 2008, but they turned it on at season's end with a three-game winning streak. Shaker returns 12 of 22 possible starters, including seven on the defensive side of the ball.

Ami Berger, who is also one of the Blue Bison's top wrestlers, is Shaker's anchor in the middle of the offensive line and along with Kenny O'Connor, looks to solidify the running game up front.

"We have a lot of teamwork and chemistry and it all starts in the weight room," Berger said. "The guys you see at 6 in the morning, lifting weights and talking, those are all the morning guys. Actually, we just went golfing together last Friday."

Shaker head coach Dennis Bender gives all the credit of Shaker's weight room success - a dozen athletes joined the 1,000-pound lift club this offseason - to assistants Greg Sheeler and Danny Gibson, who find a way to motivate the kids and get them out of bed before the sun comes up in the wintertime.

In previous years, Shaker would be lucky to have two or three or four players in the 1,000 pound club, but the program should be even better. According to Bender, another dozen or so lifted over 900 pounds.

"We’re expecting a lot just because of what we did in offseason with weightlifting program," Bender said. "We’re going to push these kids and say, 'you know what, this is what you worked for all offseason pushing around those big weights."

A little postseason success would be quite the event in Latham. Shaker's last championship of any kind came in that magical year of 1969, when we put a man on the moon, celebrated at Woodstock and watched the miracle Mets win the World Series. That year, Shaker went 6-2 and tied for the lead in the Suburban Scholastic Council with Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Bethlehem.

Shaker lineman Kenny O'Connor is a two-way terror for the Blue Bison and is also a Division I lacrosse prospect as a goaltender.

Remember to read all about the Bison in our 48-page high school football preview section, which hits the newsstands on Thursday, September, 3.

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