Monday, August 9, 2010

Blais and Poore gearing up for senior seasons at UAlbany; local news and notes

I was over at the University at Albany today covering New York Giants training camp...and it also turned out to be the first day of practice for the UAlbany football team, so I caught up with a pair of seniors that played their high school football in Rensselaer County.

I also have some local notes below the UAlbany content.

Chris Blais figures to be a major part of the UAlbany defense in 2010 after missing the entire 2009 season with a pair of hand injuries. (Photo provided by UAlbany).

ALBANY – Chris Blais didn't play a single snap for the University at Albany football team in 2009 – he just heard that sound twice in his right hand.

Blais, a senior outside linebacker who played high school football at La Salle Institute, tore a ligament in his right hand during the 2009 preseason. He had that surgically repaired and was working to come back for the Great Danes' game against Monmouth in week eight when he broke two bones in the same hand and had to sit for the remainder of the season.

Not only was it frustrating for him to be off the football field as a player, it made life hard for the natural right-hander off the field as well.

"Everything I did, brush my teeth, make food, it was a little bit difficult to do," Blais said after Monday's practice, the first of the season for UAlbany. "After about two or three weeks, I started to become ambidextrous. I started to use my left hand and I could throw a football with my left hand, but it was still really difficult to do everything."

Blais didn't sit idly by during the 2009 campaign. He served as a sort of assistant coach to Akeem Cedeno, who was in charge of the linebackers and is currently the tight ends coach.

For that dedication to the team, UAlbany head coach Bob Ford mentioned Blais specifically as a leader to look for on this year's squad. The Great Danes are dealing with the absence of 17 seniors, many of whom Ford described as "franchise" players, including running back David McCarty, quarterback Vinny Esposito and wide receiver Tim Bush.

"The coaches say that it's never a rebuilding season, it's a reloading season," Blais said. "We lost our whole linebacker corps, but we have guys that can step in and that are ready to go. We have guys that got some time last year and aren't afraid to get in there and know what they're doing."

On the other side of the ball, Hoosick Falls native Jason Poore enters his senior season as the Danes' top returning wide receiver. He caught 26 passes for 243 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2009.

"It's big. I have a big opportunity to make something happen this year," said Poore. "With Bush leaving, we need someone to fill in all of his catches and all of the plays he made."

Poore is one of UAlbany's few returning skill players, but he said that a solid group of 25 players were together for regular spring and summer workouts that made the first day of practice a little less nerve-wracking. Picked No. 3 in the Northeast Conference preseason coaches' poll, Poore and the Danes are also glad to have the target off their backs for once.

A season ago, the Great Danes went 7-4, finishing second in the NEC standings.

"Every year our goal is to win the conference and hopefully make the playoff game," he said. "This year, if we win our conference, we get an automatic (NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs) bid. Now that we're No. 3, not everyone is gunning for us. Now we can go start hunting people out."

Jason Poore, a Hoosick Falls native, spends part of every summer lifting weights with the Panthers in the high school weight room. (Photo provided by UAlbany).

I will have a video to post here in a few minutes.

I had a short story last week on the 11-and-10-year-old New York State Little League tournament that's currently being played at Twin Town Little League's complex on Williams Road in North Greenbush that just didn't make our print edition.

Here is an update:
On Saturday, Geddes beat Orchard Park with a score of 19 - 6 and Pearl River beat Saratoga American 11-1.  Then on Sunday, Pearl River beat Massapequa 8-5 to win Pool A, and Mid Island beat Geddes 13-4.

Pool play continues tomorrow with Orchard Park playing Mid Island at 6:00 PM and Saratoga American playing Massapequa at 8:00 PM.  The winner of the 8PM game tomorrow, plays against Pearl River on Tuesday at 6:00 PM, with the other Semi-Final game at 8:00 pm.

The Championship Game will be played at 6:00 PM on Wednesday, August 11th!

The games played on both Tuesday and Wednesday will be broadcast by Time Warner.

In other baseball news this weekend, the Albany Athletics of the Twilight League clinched a trip to the AABC Stan Musial World Series in Houston, Texas.

Here is an update sent to us by the A's:
Tournament co-MVP Jason Martin hit an RBI double in the first inning, a solo homer in the third inning and a two-run single in the 6th inning to lead Albany to an 11-7 victory over the Long Island Storm. Jim Shook, tournament co-MVP, came on in relief in the 5th inning to stave off a Storm rally and threw 2.1 innings of scoreless relief to earn his second tournament win. Shook went 2-1 in the tournament and threw 16.2 innings over 3 games, fanned 15 batters and yielded 12 hits. Martin went 10-for-16 in the tournament and hit three home runs and drove in 10 RBI. 

Mike Zgorzelski helped stake Albany to a early 5-0 victory after hitting a three-run homer in the first inning. Dan Barbero helped extend the lead with an RBI single and a solo homer, and Martin finished had a big two-run single in the 6th to extend an 8-7 lead to 10-7.

Albany, now 35-8-1 overall, won its first Regional Championship and heads to Houston, Texas for the AABC National World Series to face the Dallas Royals, winner of the South Plains Region, on Wednesday at 4 pm at Baseball USA Complex ( Albany becomes only the 3rd team in the Twilight League's 80 year history to earn a trip the World Series (Apex Printing-1989, Sons of Italy-1973).  The Storm, meanwhile, were the national runner-up last year and had won the World Series in 2006.

In 15-and-under baseball news, the Troy Renegades lost to D-Bat Sharp, 6-1, in the Final Four of the AABC Ken Griffey Jr. World Series in Owasso, Okla. last weekend.  

D-Bat Sharp went on to win the tournament championship. 

In tennis news, Matthew Kandath (Albany Academy and Stanford) is doing very well at the USTA National Championship in Kalamazoo, MI.

Since Friday: 18-and-under singles play:

In the first round he defeated Christian Heaney-Secord: 6-1, 6-1

In the second round he defeated Austin Akers: 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.

Kandath lost in the third round to Dennis Novikov 7-6 (5), 6-3.

His 18u doubles partner is Jack Sock.  If you recall, he and Jack made it to the semifinals of the Junior US Open in 2009.

Doubles Action:

First round was a Bye

Second round they defeated Andrew Pecht and William Spector: 6-2, 6-3

Third round they defeated Dominic Cotrone and Zack McCourt:  6-1, 6-1

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