Thursday, August 19, 2010

High school football notebook, August 19

CLUMS CORNERS --Head coach Erick Roadcap could not have been happier discussing his hopes for the Tamarac High School varsity football team. With 47 players in the program – varsity and junior varsity – and all five of his offensive lineman returning, the Bengals have reason to be optimistic for the season ahead.

They also have reason to be thankful that the program still exists at all.

"Guy Changa went to a board meeting around 2001 when they (the Board of Education) were talking about getting rid of it," Roadcap said. "He presented some research saying, ‘hey, you know what, there are more injuries in soccer than there are in football, with all of the knee injuries that they have.

"That was what kept the program alive," Roadcap continued. "We had JV for a year and we stated climbing back up the ladder. We knew the youth is coming."

Almost a decade ago, Changa, who founded the Brunswick Bulldogs youth football and cheerleading program in 1996, heard from a booster club parent that the Brittonkill Central School District’s board was meeting to discuss cutting the football program at the school entirely. Changa and a group of football supporters pleaded their case and the football team was preserved.

Although Tamarac’s varsity team finished 4-5 a season ago, the Bengals went 5-4 in 2008 and have made steady progress ever since the 2002 season was canceled due to a lack of participation. The biggest reason for the recent upswing has been the success of the Bulldogs youth program.

Changa got his start on the local football scene as an assistant coach for his nephews in the South Troy Pop Warner program. When Changa’s son was born, Changa realized he wanted him to play football in his hometown.

A Pop Warner program, the Brunswick Bengals, had existed but faded away over the years. Changa and his brother-in-law began work on creating a new team, naming it after the Canton Bulldogs, one of the first professional teams in the nation.

The Bulldogs played at the Pop Warner level from 1996 to 1999, joining the Northeast Youth Football League in 2000. From 2002 to 2005, the two teams the Bulldogs fielded on a competitive level captured five of the six possible Super Bowl titles they could have won.

Tamarac High School varsity head coach Erick Roadcap speaks with his team following Thursday's practice. (Photo by Will Montgomery - The Record).

A few years later, those players are competing for the Tamarac varsity squad with a decade of football experience already under their belts.

"That’s where it starts and that’s why I believe Watervliet was so successful for so many years," Roadcap said. "If a kid comes on the field for the first time in seventh grade, in their mind, they think they’re playing a game of pickup football. In reality, it’s very tedious, with repetition, doing the same thing over and over again. The kids are like, ‘this isn’t sandlot football.’ It’s not. This is tackle football."

Changa has worked with the Tamarac coaches over the years, installing the same language and terminology that the varsity team used with the youth program. Similar types of communication between lower levels and the high school squads have made the Cambridge, Hoosick Falls and Schuylerville programs successful in much the same way.

"We’ve played this way since our youth in the Brunswick Bulldogs," said junior quarterback Nick Casale. "And we played both ways over there and it continues through the whole program."

"Introducing it down there has really propelled us," Roadcap said. "Five years ago when I started, I had 24 kids and three were soccer players, kickers, trying to make it work. This year I have 47. Each year the number has climbed by about five. In Class C football, that’s a good number.

"Our numbers are really good, they really are. That’s half the battle."

--
Keep checking back on the blog for a training camp report - including an expanded entry on Tamarac - posted every day between now and opening day of the high school football season on Thursday, Sept. 2. The schools will be posted in no particular order, so please be patient if you don't see your school right away.

Also keep your eyes open for our 48-page preview section - Kickoff 2010 - which hits the newsstands inside The Record on Thursday, Sept. 2.


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