Young players fall in line for Blackbirds

VOORHEESVILLE — With key ingredients gone, the Voorheesville football coaches worked throughout the off-season to cook up a solid team for 2007.

In need of depth on the offensive and defensive lines, some young players have stepped up and will help continue to make the Blackbirds a competitor in Class C.
"This particular group started pre-season ahead," said Voorheesville Coach Joseph Sapienza. "We had very good attendance at both team camps and the skill sessions that we did.
"They have been very focused so far in the pre-season," Sapienza added. "We’ve gotten 100 percent effort from 100 percent of the players."
"The younger guys are stepping up and filling into positions," said senior quarterback and co-captain Jay Conde.
"We’re coming together pretty well," added senior co-captain Adam Duncan. "The younger guys are stepping up."

Duncan and Conde are captains along with senior lineman Sean Fitzmaurice and senior running back Pat Jones.
"We are going to try to be better than last year," said Fitzmaurice, one of two linemen with experience.

Fitzmaurice played mostly on the defensive side of the ball last year and will have to add offensive tackle duties to his workload this year.

Daniel Flynn is the only other lineman returning who got a lot of playing time last year.

"Put in the effort"
"It’s kind of the opposite of where we were a year ago," Sapienza said. "We had an experienced line and backfield. This year is opposite: Our skill players have experience and we have some young people on the line."

But a lot of the younger players have worked to get better during the off-season.
"At the end of last season," Sapienza said. "I put it to the kids that there is an opportunity to start at the varsity level on the offensive line. The positions are there if you make the effort. The young kids came up big. They put in the effort to train and prepare.
"We’re not starting the season cold," he added. "The kids made the effort to do the extra things that will continue to the varsity."

Sapienza said that the senior leadership has also helped the transition for the younger players.
"The four guys there," Sapienza said of Conde, Fitzmaurice, Duncan, and Jones, "are seniors and leaders. They care about it and they create a good environment for the younger kids to come out and step up and give it a shot."

The Voorheesville squad has just 23 players, which is fewer than the past few years.
"We’ve been doing a lot of conditioning," Conde said. "Our numbers are low, so we’ve been running a lot."

Two divisions

For the third year in a row, Class C has been realigned. This year, the class has split into two divisions instead of three.
"It works this year," Sapienza said. "It happens to work in our favor. When they re-arranged the divisions, they drew up a new schedule. We get Watervliet and Chatham on our home schedule. That works in our favor."

Besides Chatham and Watervliet, Voorheesville is grouped with Hoosic Valley Mechanicville, Catholic Central High School, Tamarac, and Coxsackie-Athens.

The Blackbirds open the season at home against Hoosic Valley on Sept. 1.
"Everybody is antsy to play," Jones said. "We want to hit somebody."
"This is the first time in my three years on varsity that the entire team is looking forward to the season," Fitzmaurice said.
"We don’t have any cross-over games," Sapienza said. "Every game is a divisional game and is for standings. It takes all the other criteria out of the mix."
"We are going to take it one game at a time," Jones said.
"We are not underestimating anybody," Conde added.
"It’s a great competitive schedule," Sapienza said. "I think any team coming out of division and Class C will be competitive in the state playoffs."

Looking at states

But the Blackbirds also have loftier goals.
"We are looking at going to states," Fitzmaurice said. "We want to go all the way."
"That has been our goal for the last three years," Duncan added. "It’s not happened yet."

Voorheesville had a good team last year. Although the Blackbirds were the number-eight seed for the Class C Section II playoffs last year, they were one win away from being one of the higher seeds in the playoffs.

That didn’t matter, as the Blackbirds knocked off top-seed Stillwater in the first-round of the playoffs before losing to Chatham — for the second time — in the semifinals.

This year, they can be just as competitive.
"The kids are coming together as a team," Sapienza said. "They are working hard. What we really are working on is our depth. We feel our first 11 matches up with anybody. We’re trying to prepare for the long term."

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