Just when Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and Lansingburgh had established a nice little relationship, along comes a party crasher.
AMSTERDAM (3-1, 7-2)
Head coach: Pat Liverio
Top returning players: Dan McNamara (RB), Ben Miseikis (RB), Tom Regal
2007 season: beat Averill Park, 34-14, in Section II quarterfinals; lost to Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake , 22-19, in semifinals.
BALLSTON LAKE (4-0, 8-2)
Head coach: Matt Shell.
Top returning players: Paul Layton
(QB/DB/K), Keaton Flint (WR), Connor Hadcock (TE), Eric Vuillaume (RB), Nick Henderson (RB), Tyler Paluba (RB), Chris VanAlstyne (OL).
2007 season: Division 1 champion. Beat Gloversville, 41-13, in Section II quarterfinals; beat Amsterdam, 22-19, in semifinals; lost to Lansingburgh, 28-25, in championship game.
GLENS FALLS (2-2, 4-5)
Head coach: Pat Lilac
Top returning players: Kyle Kelly (QB), Dan Morrison (RB), Matt Rowell (OL/DL), Nick DiManno (OL/LB), Joe Bethel (OL/DL), Frank Murone (OL/DL).
2007 season: Lost to Bishop Maginn,
27-0, in Section II quarterfinals.
GLOVERSVILLE (1-3, 4-5)
Head coach: Tom Ciaccio.
Top returning players: Anthony Murray (RB), Dylan Schwed (OL), Jared Hladik (OL/DL).
2007 season: Lost to Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 41-13, in Section II quarterfinals.
(1-6, 2-7 CLASS AA)
Head coach: John Irion.
Top returning players: Nick LaSarso (QB), Shaun Hazlitt (OL), Jim Drexel (OL), Joe Turck (RB/DB).
2007 season: Did not qualify for postseason play.
SO. GLENS FALLS (0-4, 3-6)
Head coach: Craig Scott.
Top returning players: Joe Collier (RB), Tim Farnsworth (DL), Mustafa Choukier (LB), Tim Boller (LB).
2007 season: Did not qualify for postseason play.
AVERILL PARK (1-3, 3-6)
Head coach: Bill Roemer
Top returning players: Tim Murdick (QB), Justin Collen (RB), Kyle Byrne (OL), Matt Joe (RB), Andy Goyer (TE).
2007 season: Lost to Amsterdam, 34-14, in Section II quarterfinals.
BISHOP MAGINN (3-1, 6-3)
Head coach: Joe Grasso.
Top returning players: Bunduka Kargbo (QB/DB), Mitchell Dickson (RB), James Torres (TE/DL), T.J. Jefferson (WR), Chris Bryant (OL), Isaiah Oliver (RB), Casey Halloran (OL/LB), Evan Crawford (OL), Tymear Mallory (RB).
2007 season: Beat Glens Falls, 27-0, in Section II quarterfinals; lost to Lansingburgh, 40-20, in semifinals.
LANSINGBURGH (4-0, 11-2)
Head coach: Pete Porcelli.
Top returning players: Marcus Hepp (RB), T.J. McLaughlin (QB), Mike Caro (OL/LB), Santell Mauzon (TE), Daquan Davis (OL), Shane Wynn (RB).
2007 season: Division 2 champion. Beat Mohonasen, 43-7, in Section II quarterfinals; beat Bishop Maginn, 40-20, in semifinals; beat Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, 28-25, in championship game; beat Indian River, 37-36, in state quarterfinals; beat Ossining, 49-30, in state semifinals; lost to Rochester Aquinas, 34-12, in state final.
MOHONASEN (1-3, 1-8)
Head coach: Josh Whipple.
Top returning players: Bryan Ziobrowski (QB/LB), Nick Kosakowski (OL/DL), Lean Ghikas (OL/DL), Vinnie DeMarco (OL).
2007 season: Lost to Lansingburgh,, 43-7, in Section II quarterfinals.
SCOtia-glenville (1-3, 2-7)
Head coach: Mike Turgeon.
Top returning players: Nick Madcharo (DL), Matt Burchhardt (DL), Jeff Moehle (RB), Paul Lasher (RB).
2007 season: Did not qualify for postseason play.
TROY (5-1, 7-2 CLASS AA)
Head coach: Jack Burger.
Top returning players: Zach Dolan (QB/DB), Paul Ashburn (WR), Mike Melville (RB/DB), Shatiek Lewis (LB), Anthony Paone (LB), Bryan Chattoo (TE).
2007 season: Lost in Section II quarterfinals to Ballston Spa, 34-21.
Troy joins the Class A league this season, as does Queensbury, giving the league 12 members. And even deeper competition.
"It's another traditionally strong team," said Burnt Hills coach Matt Shell, whose Spartans fell to Lansingburgh, 28-25, in last fall's Section II final. "Every weekend in this league is tough, and adding those two teams just makes it tougher."
Lansingburgh coach Pete Porcelli, whose Knights have been to the final in both of their seasons at the Class A level "” after four consecutive title games at Class B "” knows his team faces a tougher road with its next door neighbor now a divisional foe.
"It's a good program," said Porcelli of Troy. "It's going to make for a more challenging season."
Troy coach Jack Burger, in his second year back after a five-year hiatus, welcomes the chance to renew some old acquantainces, as his Flying Horses join Lansingburgh, Averill Park, Bishop Maginn,
Mohonasen and Scotia-Glenville in the league's Southeast Division.
Burnt Hills, Amsterdam, Glens Falls, Gloversville, South Glens Falls and Queensbury will compete in the Northwest Division.
The teams open with two interdivision games, then play their five division foes to complete a seven-game regular season.
"It's nice to get back to some of the old rivalries," Burger said, recalling battles with both Maginn and Amsterdam. "We had some great games against Maginn, and I can remember playing Amsterdam in front of 3,000 fans."
Burnt Hills, Lansingburgh, Bishop Maginn and Amsterdam have been the "A" semifinalists the past two years.
Both the Spartans and Golden Griffins will be led by veteran quarterbacks, with Paul Layton entering his third year as the starter at Burnt Hills and Bunduka Kargbo in his fourth full season under center at Maginn.
"Obviously, he's been a very good player the past two years," said Shell, who brought the then 175-pounder up to the varsity during his freshman year. "He got to play a little bit at quarterback at the end of that year.
"His sophomore year, we had a heck of a team, and it allowed Paul to grow into the position. He was a leader last year, and it's his team this season.
"The kids know he's our leader on our field. They look to Paul, and they expect good things from him."
The same is true for Bishop Maginn, where Kargbo is looking to get the Golden Griffins into a sectional final for the first time since 2000.
"Ben brings a lot to the position," said Griffins veteran coach Joe Grasso, the second winningest active coach in Section II. "We're an option team, and he's gotten really good at running the offense. He can stand in the pocket and throw, he 'sgood at play action and on a sprint out, and he brings a bit of escapability."
Kargbo, also an outstanding defensive back, threw for over 1,200 yards last fall.
"He really spread the ball around last year, and that was the biggest thing about his development. It showed he'd gotten to that level where he was reading the
"And you can't measure what he offers as a leader. He takes control of the situation."
Layton had a combined 1,560 yards and 20 TDs rushing and passing last year, in addition to handling the kicking and punting duties. The 6-foot-1,
210-pound senior has a solid supporting cast, particularly in the backfield.
The Spartans have a four-man stable of Erik Vuillaume, Brandon Beatty, Nick Henderson and Tyler Paluba to run behind the likes of Chris VanAlstyne and Kyle Charon.
The sting of last year's dramatic loss in the Class A final gives the Spartans more incentive to return to the top.
"We walked off the field with our heads high, and with a lot of
respect for Lansingburgh," said Shell. "We've got a good group back, and a lot of players up from our JV team that went to the Super Bowl."
Amsterdam, which failed to win nine games in a season only once between 1998 and 2005, is replacing a quarterback and No. 1 running back and standout two-way player Vinnie Nicosia, as well as a good deal of the players who did the dirty work.
"We lost a lot up front," said Rams coach Pat Liviero. "We lost two-deep on the line, so the lack of experience is a concern."
What the Rugged Rams do have is a backfield.
"The strength of our team is
going to be our three running backs "” Dan McNamara, Ben Miseikis and Tom Regal," said Liverio. "But we took such a hit on the line that depth is going to be a concern."
Glens Falls will be playing on its new artificial surface on Putt LaMay Field as the Indians return to Saturday afternoon games on their campus after more than a decade at East Field.
Senior quarterback Kyle Kelly and running back Dan Morrison (over 900 yards, 13 TDs) will operate behind an experienced line that has Joe Bethlel, Nick DiManno, Matt Rowell and Frank Murone back.
"Kelly and Morrison had good years for us last year, and we expect them to be solid again," said Indians coach Pat Lilac. "And having an experienced line is an advantage."
Queensbury will put a young team on the field, one year after a senior-heavy team went 2-7. This might be a good year for the Spartans to return to Class A.
"Three years ago, we had five
seniors, this year, we have 12," said coach John Irion. "But we have some kids who got to play when we got hit with injuries last year."
The Spartans' straight-ahead offense will be powered by returning linemen Jim Drexel (6-2, 296), Shaun Hazlitt (6-3, 270) and Ryan Murphy. Quarterback Nick LaSarso starts his senior season healthy.
"He played half the season last year with a broken foot," said Irion.
South Glens Falls brings back running back Joe Collier, who will work behind a retooled offensive line.
"We have no starters back on the offensive line," said second-year head coach Craig Scott. "We're working hard, but we don't have great size."
Linebackers Tim Boller, Mustafa Choukier and lineman Tim Farnsworth lead the Bulldogs' defense.
Gloversville is also looking for an identity, as Tom Ciaccio's Huskies lost 26 seniors from the 2007 squad, and return less than a handful of starters.
The best of that bunch is running back Anthony Murray, with Jared Hladik and Dylan Schwed returning on the line.
Chad McCloskey will be the quarterback.
"We're a young team, but I do like our overall speed," said Ciaccio.
Lansingburgh advanced to the state title game in the Carrier Dome, but took a huge hit from graduation. Gone are the team's featured back (state Class A Player of the Year Kenny Youngs), quarterback (Connor Gallo) and best defensive player (Chris Sawyer), as well as a handful of very capable supporting players.
"We not only lost some players who had tremendous careers at Lansingburgh, we lost a lot of kids who played a lot, from both the offense and defense," said Porcelli, who has taken the Troy school to a sectional final in each of his six seasons with the program, his teams posting a 58-10 record in that time.
"We have zero guys back who started on defense in the Dome. We're just going to have to develop a lot of younger guys."
Marcus Hepp is the top returning running back, with junior T.J. McLaughlin stepping into the quarterback spot.
The Knights have some experience and size up front with Mike Caro, Daquan Davis and Joe Retos returning, as well as tight end Santell Mauzon. Also in the mix will be 6-7, 300-pounder Tyler Hammett.
A frightening thought for Class A opponents who spent the last two years getting a good look at the back of Youngs' No. 8 jersey as he compiled stats that helped him to second place in the Section II record book in career rushing yards (5,404) and scoring (562 points) "” the Knights will not lack for speed this fall.
"This is the fastest team I've had, in terms of overall team speed," Porcelli said.
Kargbo has familiar faces to work with at Bishop Maginn, including a couple who joined him on the Griffins' state championship basketball team.
Tight end James Torres (four-year starter), wideouts T.J. Jefferson and Pierre Sandaire and running backs Mitchell Dickson, Tymear Mallory and Isaiah Oliver all back.
Chris Bryant, Casey Halloran and Evan Crawford return up front, with newcomer Nico Rios, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound transfer from Michigan will join Torres as a second tight end.
"We have a lot of experience," said Grasso. "I don't known when we've had this many players back, but it would probably go back to our unbeaten Super Bowl teams [1993 and 1994].".
Troy is no stranger to postseason success, having won five straight Section II titles during Burger's first stint as head coach. That run began with a state Class A title in 1996, and included three straight appearances in the state "AA" championship game, and another state title in 1998.
The Flying Horses will be solid again, led by quarterback Zach Dolan, tight end/linebacker Bryan Chattoo, linemen Mike Lewandowski and Trevor Ryan, running backs Rashawn Moore and Fred Fitch, and linebacker Mike Millington.
Second-year Scotia-Glenville head coach Mike Turgeon is looking to build some depth in the Tartans' program.
"It's a matter of staying healthy for us, because we're probably only going to have 23 or 24 kids on the team," said Turgeon. "We're going to have a bunch of players going both ways."
Matt Burchhardt and Nick Machardo return up front for the Tartans, who will have just a handful of seniors on the roster. Paul Lasher and Jeff Moehle will see duty at running back, with junior Cody Rumney moving into the quarterback position.
Josh Whipple steps in as head coach at Mohonasen, where he hopes his team can build from week to week.
"We've got five seniors, and the numbers are low, but we're hoping our conditioning will keep us in games into the fourth quarter," said Whipple, who was a JV coach with the program the last three years. "Then we'll see what happens."
Senior Bryan Ziobrowski will run the Mighty Warriors' spread offense. Nick Kosakowski, Lean Ghikas and Vinnie DeMaro are lettermen up front. That group will likely have to play both offense and defense, due to a lack of depth.
"We've got a solid group of underclassmen, but we know it's not going to be easy. We're in a strong division in a tough league."
Averill Park also has a veteran quarterback, as Tim Murdick begins his third season.
"The kids depend on him, on his leadership," said Warriors coach Bill Roemer.
Justin Collen and Matt Joe will get a lot of carries, with tight end Andrew Goyer a reliable target for Murdick, who will work behind a line anchored by senior Kyle