Friday, August 31, 2012

Where are You? Week One Poll

This is it folks. 7 p.m. tonight, the lights go up, the pads go on and the football gets snapped. It is now officially high school football season. And what would football season be without my opinion? Don't answer that question. Instead, check this out.

Just like some of our returning varsity players, I've got a year of football experience under my belt and I'll be using that knowledge to once again write my weekly poll, ranking where, at least in my opinion, the best Section II football teams belong; in a list of one to five.

I'll be the first to admit that the first week of polls are a little murky, but there's still some teams that stand out after a few weeks of double sessions. So here they are: every class, the top five teams. Make sure to check it out now and then check it out on Sunday and see just how my far off my predictions may be.

The Record’s High School Football Poll

1.Columbia - The Blue Devils went from the bottom to the top to feeling like they were back on the bottom, all in the of ten football games. Columbia brings back seven starters from last season’s squad, including senior running back Chris Smith. If Smith can have another season like 2011, there’s no reason the Blue Devils shouldn’t have a successful 2012.
2. Shenendehowa - It’s difficult to ever count out the Plainsmen. No matter the year, no matter the situation, the Shen squad always seems to have a hand in the mix with their name constantly being brought up as contenders. This year though, is just a little bit different. For the first time since the program’s inception Brent Steurwald won’t be on the sidelines every Friday night. How first-year Brian Clawson handles his team is going to be a constant story-line all season.
3. La Salle - The Cadets had a nearly unbelievable offense last season and, despite losing quarterback Garret Delory, they have plans to spend a consider¬able amount of time in the endzone again this year. Senior wide receiver Gabe Smith, whose speed is well documented across Section II, is already generating buzz amongst college scouts. Expect him to lead La Salle’s offense all season long.
4. Shaker - The Blue Bison didn’t have the most successful 2011, falling to Shen in the first round of sectionals, but they’ve done the work in the off-season and it shows. Shaker is one of the biggest and most physical squads in their divi¬sion and possibly all of Section II. Returning senior running back Ryan Griffin is as strong as they come and his strength in the backfield is going to be the basis of the Shaker offense.
5. Saratoga - Jake Eglintine was handed the ball, literally and figuratively, near the end of the Blue Streaks’ season last year and, as a sophomore, he led the squad to two straight victories to finish out 2011. Now, with a handful of game-time experience under his belt Eglintine will once again call the shots under cen¬ter. This time though, he’ll have a team around him that knows exactly what they want out of this year.

1. Burnt Hills
- The Spartans made it farther than anyone else in Section II, only to finish their season seven points away from a New York State Championship. That kind of finish doesn’t leave a team’s memory quickly and with plenty of returnees back on the field this season, you an certainly expect BHBL to be out for some vengeance.
2. Troy - The Flying Horses may have seen their season end a bit premature¬ly last year, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t more than prepared for this year. In fact, Troy has been on the field since mid-March, running through plays and finding the rhythm that seemed to desert them in last season’s sectional semi-final.
3. Amsterdam - Doug Edick takes over for longtime coach Pat Liverio as the Rugged Rams prep for another run towards the Class A Super Bowl. Amsterdam was hit relatively hard by graduation, but that might actually be a blessing in dis¬guise. With a new coach a new group of players can easily transition into a different system.
4. Averill Park - The Warriors face a trio of tough games right out of the gate, but don’t underestimate this squad. They have the best numbers, depth-wise, that they’ve seen in years and the majority of their offense already has a season of varsity experience in their ledger. If Averill Park can start strong, they might actually be the black horse of the season.
5. Bishop Maginn - The Warriors lost Mathias McKinnon and his 3,000 career rushing yards to graduation this past spring and with that loss, the team has been forced to evolve a little bit. Throughout the pre-season Maginn tested out three different backs but had yet to make a definitive decision as far as starters go. Joey Deso will have to take on an expanded role as quarterback in 2012, expect him to throw often.

1. Schalmont
- The Sabres come into 2012 as the winners of three consecu¬tive Section II Class B and West Division titles. Although last season’s may have come with a side of controversy as well, with a final-second two-point conversion, Schalmont still walked off the field with the victory and for them that was more than enough.
2. Lansingburgh - The Knights have spent two years as a very young team in Class A. This season they’re an experienced team, facing off against a whole new group of competitive teams. Anthony Walker returns in the backfield for ‘Burgh and the expectations for the junior tailback are already high, although probably not as high as what he expects from himself.
3. Albany Academy - Graduation hit the Cadets hard, there’s no way around that. Team leaders Connor Hartigan and Michael Paparian are both gone and its up to this season’s rising seniors to fill in those rather large shoes. There may be new faces, but Academy is still a strong team and has the depth to make a return to the Super Bowl for the second straight season.
4. Cohoes - The Tigers return their entire offensive line from 2011. That’s huge. A strong offensive line is generally the starting point for a successful team and this year Cohoes has that in spades. The biggest question mark for the Tigers though is their defense. Most players are on the field for both offense and defense, so the Tigers are going to need some serious stamina from the get go.
5. Ravena - The Indians have one goal really; not let Schalmont end their sea¬son. Ravena has found themselves a casualty of the Sabres perennial talent for the past two seasons and this year they’re determined to change history. With seven returning offensive starters and six more returnees on defense, Ravena already stands a good chance of making some headway in their opening matchup against Cohoes.

1. Hoosick Falls
- The Panthers are, for the first time in a long time, a very young team. They still have some key returnees though in quarterback Billy Pine and running back Brad Burns. Both seniors were key components of Hoosick Falls’ dominant team in 2011 and they remember the one point loss that ended their season perfectly. Pine and Burns are back and they’re going after a cham¬pionship.
2. Stillwater - Liam Kane has the potential to be one of the most powerful and dynamic running backs in all of Section II. The senior can power through a line as well as anyone, but give an open field and watch him blow right past you. If Kane can find the endzone consistently, Stillwater can find themselves in a suc¬cessful mix.
3. Fonda - The Braves were no match for the seemingly unstoppable Hoosick Falls team in last season’s Class Super Bowl.     But don’t look to that loss as a reason to count them out in 2012.     Matt Westfall will step into the starting spot as quarterback, with a squadron of fellow seniors that gives Fonda some serious depth as far as experience goes.
4. Mechanicville - The Red Raiders are going to look a little different this sea¬son. For the first time Mechanicville be switching up their offense, alternating from their traditional Power-I to a flex-bone triple offense. Returning quarterback Sal Cimino is going to have to act as a bit of a general on the field and he’ll have to learn the new offense; quickly.
5. Watervliet - The Cannoneers were yet another victim of Hoosick Falls last season and they enter this year as a bit of an underdog. ‘Vliet lost 15 seniors to graduation this past spring and their projected starting quarterback is a junior. They do have some experience at wideout though, with both Anthony Mosca and Jordan Gleason able to get open in the secondary.

1. Cambridge
- Graduation took a toll on the Indians, but even with just five starters returning this season, Cambridge is still the odds on favorite to pick up their third straight Class D Championship. Ethan English is a bit of a prodigy at quarterback and his back for his second year under center. As a freshman he threw for over 1,000 yards and the plan is to keep the ball in the air this year.
2. Rensselaer - The Rams have a rather obvious chip on their shoulders after falling to Cambridge in the past two championship games. This year’s squad doesn’t lack in experience or motivation to make it back to a fifth straight Super Bowl. Steven Harwood will have to carry a lot of those expectations on his shoul¬ders, or rather his arm, as he returns for another year at quarterback.
3. Greenwich - The Witches have some question marks surrounding them going into this season, with a brand-new quarterback after the graduation of four-year starter Tony Giroux and a transition back to Class D competition. Jake Jennings takes over the reins at QB and while there’s plenty of pressure, Jennings has the game in his blood and three years of waiting for game-time to back him up.
4. Warrensburg - The Burghers didn’t get off to the best of starts last season, opening up 2011 at 0-4, but don’t count them out quite yet. Once the squad got a handle on their double wing offense, they won four of their last five matchups. If they can get control of their offensive attack from the start, Warrensburg should present a solid attack.
5. Whitehall - Josh Hoagland will be back on the field for his fourth year as the Railroaders’ starting running back and that alone puts Whitehall in a good place. If the offensive line stays healthy enough to open up lanes for Hoagland, Whitehall has a very good chance to make a run of it.


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