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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 28, 2008

Dutchmen build on momentum from a year before

By Jordan J. Michael

GUILDERLAND –– The Guilderland football team is in good spirits after setting a school record for wins in 2007.

The team finished 8-2 and made it to the Class AA Super Bowl last year. “We’ve been improving the last couple of years,” said Coach Dan Penna. “We really hit the nail on the head last year and got it done. I’m looking forward to the same outcome this year, if not better.”

Last year was huge for the Dutchmen; the team went places where it hadn’t been in many years. “We’re ready to bounce back strong under the radar,” said senior Billy Kemp. “Even though we did real well last year, we lost a lot of good players. Because of that, people are doubting us this year. We will win and surprise people.”

In fact, the team lost 21 players over the off-season. Quarterback Andrew Smith and running back Paul Booker have graduated and are students at the University of Albany this year. “Smith and Booker were a big part of the run last year,” said Penna. “However, we lose kids every year; it’s nothing new. Great players leave and then great players rise up the next year. It’s a vicious cycle.”

The team has less experience than last season, but more depth. “There are a few standout players and a whole handful of good athletes,” said Penna. “We are a little inexperienced, so we have to grow as a group.”

“We put a ton of time in during the off-season and 110 percent is going into double sessions,” said senior Jesse Terzian. “I think we can fill the shoes of the guys that left. I see the energy out here every day. We are passionate about matching last season or going even further. Everyone is ready to play.”

The biggest shoes to fill this fall are for the quarterback position that Smith left open. A couple of players are contending for the big role.

“I’m keeping my eyes peeled for a starting quarterback. I have two or three guys working the ball in drills,” said Penna. “Each player is good in his own way. I might share the position, unless someone really stands out. I’ll have to decide as time moves forward.”

Senior Bobby Falcone is eager to run the offense this year. “We set pretty high goals here,” he said. “Anyone of us could be the starting quarterback, its that close. We’re all talented. We didn’t throw much last year, but that is going to change this year.”

Guilderland was known for its running attack last year. However, the offensive plan may change. “We ran the ball a lot last season, almost too much,” said Penna. “We have guys that can throw and guys that can catch. I’m planning to go to the air more often.”

A solid team

The Dutchmen are aiming for the playoffs, as the team does every season. “Last year’s success gives us a hunger to do well this year. All football teams set playoff goals. We just have to remember to have fun at all times. Sometimes players forget to have fun,” Penna said.

The team has a number of players taking leadership roles. It works with a leadership council, a self-governing group. “I don’t name captains. I have a clan of kids that take on a higher-level of responsibility,” said Penna.

“We have a high level of potential here, a lot of team building,” said senior Devon VanAuken. “We keep it casual, but work hard. As long as all the items come together, we’ll have great success. We have to play our game and not worry about the opponents that we face.”

The red shirts will open the season on Sept. 5, with an away game at Bethlehem. “The first game is real tough. Bethlehem is one of the better teams in all of Section II,” said Penna. “Most of their starters are returning from last year. We will get a good test to start the season. I’ll be able to see my team’s true colors.”

The Dutchmen will also play –– in order –– Christian Brothers Academy at home; Shenendehowa at home; Ballston Spa at home; away at Niskayuna; away at Albany; and away at Saratoga.

“Niskayuna is a new opponent for us. CBA is always a tough team and Saratoga is expected to be top of the line football this year,” Penna said.

Schedules for the playoffs have yet to be announced.

“Things start out a little slow at first, but we can’t help but look forward to the games,” said senior Alex Trolenberg. “As much as we put into this season, we’ll get out of it.”

A bunch of players will be seeing action for the first time. “When you have a lot of players leave, new opportunities arise,” said Kemp. “These kids haven’t seen much game action in the past so we have to make sure that they’re prepared. And they will be for sure.”

“There are no ‘gimmie games’ in Class AA football. Every opponent is tough,” said senior Jason Lawrence. “All you have to do is work hard. We have no problems with that. We believe that we’re a solid team that can win. Mind over matter.”

“We keep raising the bar every year. Nine or 10 wins is never out of reach,” said Terzian.

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