Talent and expectations abound for Dutchmen

GUILDERLAND — The attitude has changed for the coaches and players of the Guilderland football team.

After more than a decade without a winning record, the Dutchmen want to build on last year’s success and have a little of their own success.
"Last year, we took steps," said Guilderland Coach Dan Penna. "But we are not settling. We raised the expectations of how we play. It’s dedication to excellence. If we do things right, it’s not just about staying in games and surviving. We can excel if we play our own game."
"We want to work off last year," said senior Nick Ranalli. "We want respect. A lot of people think that we haven’t earned it."
"We’re taking it one at a time," added classmate Pete Stanish. "We’re taking it week-to-week."

Last year, the Dutchmen made their first playoff appearance since 1999 and had their first winning record since 1995. Guilderland lost to eventual Section II Class AA champion Christian Brothers Academy in the first round of the playoffs.
"We’ve been waiting for the season ever since we lost to CBA," senior Paul Malamood said. "We have to get them back."

Returning talent

The Dutchmen have a lot of talent returning from last year’s team. A lot of the skilled players return, but there is some work to be done on the offensive and defensive lines.
"We’re looking to expand our offensive packages," Penna said. "We won’t be running everything the first few games. We’ll add things as the season progresses. We want to take advantage of our match-ups. We have speed outside and we have some good north-south runners. When a defense shuts down certain parts of our offense, we want to show our versatility this year."

The Dutchmen lost key players on both sides of the ball, and there are some gaps to fill on defense.
"We have both our cornerbacks returning but we lost two great safeties," Penna said of players who have graduated. "We have people assuming those roles. They should be effective.
"We have a couple of our linebackers back. That will help us when we start to play with our defensive line."

Gone from an outstanding defense are graduates Kyle Hussey, Kevin Forbes, and Jarrell Gatterson.
"We lost some great players in Hussey and Forbes, among others," Penna said. "It’s hard to replace those types of kids. But the guys have given a tremendous amount of effort in the off-season and we’ve had a successful camp."

Senior Drew Smith will play more at quarterback this season, after playing in numerous spots last year. He also had a big year last year as a cornerback.

Classmate Paul Booker returns to play halfback and junior Jason Lawrence will play more at fullback this year.

Junior Devan Van Auken is the only player who returns to either the offensive and defensive lines. He is a two-way tackle for the Dutchmen.
"Nine out of 10 line starters are gone," Penna said. "All-around, we are lacking experience. The guys we’ve got coming back haven’t been on the field but they are skilled and, at times, are explosive players.
"A few of them were in a starting role last year," Penna added. "As they mature, they will improve throughout the season."
"I’m the only starting lineman returning," Van Auken said. "We are returning some good kids"We have so many good kids that didn’t even start last year or didn’t even play.
"They got a lot better over the past year," Van Auken added. "We’re looking to continue that. Our goal is to continue the legacy and we are trying to get back to the former glory years."

Malamood returns to play tight end and linebacker this year. Stanish will join Malamood in the linebacker corps. Parker Wolfe will be a receiver and safety, and Ranalli will play wingback and returns to his cornerback position.

Stanish, Ranalli, and Smith were recognized as all-league players last year.

Expectations high
"We feel that this is a very athletic group that is also a hard-working group," Penna said. "We have a lot of talented kids coming back."

With talent, comes expectations and they are high for the Dutchmen this year.
"Our expectations for them is to continue to strive for perfection," Penna said.

The kids are working toward that perfection even as the pre-season reaches its second week.
"We’ve had a good camp so far," Penna said. "We’ve thrown a lot at the kids mentally. Camp is always physical. We do a lot of running and conditioning. We also want to challenge the kids mentally."
"We’ve been practicing hard," Van Auken said. "We’ve done a lot of conditioning. We want to be in much better shape than the opposition late in games and then take it to them."

The Dutchmen will have to prepare for a tough slate of games this fall. Class AA was realigned into two divisions from three and Guilderland is in the Empire Division.

The Dutch will face Albany High School to open the season on Aug. 31. Guilderland then will travel to Queensbury on Sept. 9 to play a rare day game.

The Dutch will also play — in order — Bethlehem at home; CBA in Colonie; at Ballston Spa; at home against Saratoga; and at Shenendehowa.

The playoffs start on Oct. 19.

There is a lot of excitement around the team, and it is not just from the players and coaches.
"Everybody is excited about the season," Booker said. "We have a bunch of skill players that are going to go to college. And most are looking at Division I colleges."
"There is a lot of excitement in town," Smith said. "They support us a lot more than past years."
"The administration is behind us more than ever before," Malamood said.

The Guilderland players have high expectations but they know they have to take steps to reach their goals.
"We want to win Section II," Ranalli said. "We want to go all the way"But we have to take it one game at a time. But we want to go further."
"This is our year," Booker added. "We’re going towards the [Section II] Super Bowl. We want to be in there."

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