EAST GREENBUSH -- Columbia High School's football team has not had a winning season since Section II shifted to a classification-based regular season in 2004. The Blue Devils’ last winning season 2003, when Columbia finished 2-3 in Suburban Council’s Blue Division and went 5-4 overall.
Now that Drew Romanowski is in his second year as the Blue Devils' head coach, the program is starting to gain traction, largely because of an increased presence in the weight room, particularly among seventh and eighth graders.
Still, the team will have to turn that hard work into results on the field, which is obviously easier said than done. The Blue Devils open the season Sept. 3 at Christian Brothers Academy, another up-and-coming team looking to make a statement in 2010.
Columbia's scout defense leans in for a play call during Wednesday's afternoon practice at the high school. (Photo by Will Montgomery - The Record).
"We have confidence with this group because we were all together as a JV team and there is no complaining this year compared to last year, where people were always complaining about practice," said senior strong safety, sometime linebacker and sometime running back Jake Wronoski. "This year, everyone is ready to go."
Columbia head coach Drew Romanowski looks on as the Blue Devils discuss a play in the huddle during Wednesday's practice. (Photo by Will Montgomery - The Record).
"I think we’re more excited to be here than the last senior class," said senior offensive tackle and defensive end Shawn Gibson. "Nothing against them, but we just want to play football and we’ll pretty much do anything we can to win. We have a good senior class this year. We’re not messing around this year and we just want to get the job done."
Columbia High School varsity football head coach Drew Romanowski talks with the team after Wednesday's practice. (Photo by Will Montgomery - The Record).
The Blue Devils will have to adjust its offense now that Mr. Everything, Alex Tesoriero, has graduated. Although losing a player that led the team in nearly every statistical category from a season ago is never a positive for a team, Columbia is looking forward to having to adjust.
Playing a power running game behind big lineman a season ago, the Blue Devils will be taking a speed-based, perimeter-oriented attack that will maximize the team's strengths in 2010.
Shawn Gibson (left) and Jake Wronoski (right) will be key pieces on defense this season for the Blue Devils. (Photo by Will Montgomery - The Record).
The Blue Devils are going to be an unbalanced team in 2010, at least in terms of experience. Nine starters return on defense, but only five come back on the offensive side of the ball.
John Stanley and Zac Larson are going to battle it out for the quarterback job in training camp and the team could have a number of sophomores, including Camron Wynn, factor in as major contributors.
"Even though we have a tremendous group of seniors coming back who obviously learned in the fire – and that was certainly quite a fire around them – the young kids who are coming up had a great year on JV," said Romanowski. "Stealing a couple of younger kids that could help us as well. They can do some things the other guys can’t."
From left to right, Kyle Richard, John Stanley and Camron Wynn anticipate the snap in the backfield during Wednesday's practice at Columbia High School. (Photo by Mike McMahon - The Record).
Columbia High playbook
COACH: Drew Romanowski
STARTERS RETURNING: 5 offense, 9 defense
2009 RECORD: 2-7
NICKNAME: Blue Devils
LAST PLAYOFF GAME: 2008
LAST SECTION II TITLE: 1991 Metroland (Division IV)
DIVISION: Class AA, Liberty
Columbia players await the snap during a scrimmage session in the first week of training camp. (Photo by Mike McMahon - The Record).
Columbia, 2009 game-by-game results
BALLSTON SPA, L 42-0
Guilderland, L 47-7
Bethlehem, W 24-7
Colonie, L 24-7
LA SALLE, L 28-0
SCHENECTADY, L 42-21
SHAKER, L 30-20
Albany, W 28-7*
CBA, L 14-6*
Home games in CAPS
Columbia High School head coach Drew Romanowski instructs his players during a practice session this week. (Photo by Mike McMahon - The Record).
Columbia High School quarterback John Stanley flips an option pitch to a teammate out of the frame. (Photo by Mike McMahon - The Record).
Columbia, 2010 schedule
Friday Sept. 3, at Christian Brothers Academy, 7 p.m.
Friday Sept. 10, vs. Niskayuna, 7 p.m.
Friday Sept. 17, at Colonie, 7 p.m.
Friday Sept. 24, vs. Troy, 7 p.m.
Friday Oct. 1, at Schenectady, 7 p.m.
Friday Oct. 8, vs. Shaker, 7 p.m.
Friday Oct. 15, at La Salle Institute, 7 p.m.
Camron Wynn cradles the ball during Wednesday's practice at Columbia High School. He could be an impact sophomore for the Blue Devils this season. (Photo by Mike McMahon - The Record).
Columbia’s three keys to the season
1,Health on the lines. “Our offensive and defensive line that are very experienced and very athletic, we have to keep them healthy,” said head coach Drew Romanowski.
2, How the quarterback competition shakes out. “We have Zac Larson, who saw some varsity time here and there before he got hurt, and John Stanley coming up from the JV,” Romanowski said.
3,Underclassmen impact. A handful of juniors and sophomores coming up from the junior varsity squad could play an immediate role if they impress in training camp.
Keep checking back on the blog for a training camp report 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.