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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 20, 2009

Hungry for victory
Guilderland football is striping everything down, starting new

By Jordan J. Michael

GUILDERLAND –– The Dutchmen football team is trying some new ideas and hoping they lead to more wins after a 2-7 record in 2008.

“We scratched everything,” said senior Nick Robinson after Wednesday’s practice. “A change needed to be made.”

The team ended the practice by running with an array of offensive plays that included “Taco Bell,” “Wendy’s,” and “McDonald’s.” It was interesting to hear plays named after fast food restaurants.

“It makes things easier to remember because we’re running a no-huddle offense this season,” senior Alex Verrelli said. “It gives our offense a nice even flow and we waste no time. But, those particular plays do make me hungry.”

Junior quarterback Ryan Smith was barking out the plays loud and clear as he transitions to a full-time starter in 2009. He split time with Bobby Falcone last year.

“We’re running almost everything out of the shotgun formation and that gives me a lot of breathing room,” said Smith. “We’ll have a nice mix of running and passing.”

“Smith has a pretty good arm and he’s accurate,” said Head Coach Dan Penna, now in his fifth year with Guilderland. “He’s a good leader to have for an offense, but it takes blocking, running, catching, and defense to get the full effect.”

Penna is working on two goals for this season. “One, we want better physical condition and overall ability. Two, we want to build the team unity,” he said. “Things are coming along pretty well so far.”

Coach Bill Schewe helped coordinate and facilitate the summer workouts and Coach Craig Jensen coordinated the winter and spring workouts. Assistant offensive coordinator Casey Bardin is new to the team.

Part of the Dutchmen team went to Syracuse for a 7-on-7 passing tournament on July 14. “Our receiving core really came together at that event,” said senior wide out Peter Quinn. “We played good teams and figured out our offensive plan.”

A new scheme

Coach Penna wanted more team gains this year, compared to the mostly individual gains of the past.

“We worked hard last year, but I think we put too much pressure on ourselves to win,” Penna said. “We didn’t have enough focus on all the ingredients. Now, we’ve built a stronger team morale and a more supportive football environment.”

The tides have turned for Guilderland and Penna has a new scheme that he will put in action over the next few weeks of practice.

“Last year, we were bigger in size and more physical. This year, we’re going to take advantage of our stamina and speed,” said Penna. “I want to spread out the offensive formation and pass the ball more. Defensively, we’ll have more of a running attack.”

Penna went on, “We may not have as many individually dominant players as before, but we have a solid group of kids that can make plays. We may go through growing pains, but we’re excited to take advantage of our speed.”

“I really get the feeling that we’re going to come out fighting and out work our opponents,” senior running back Matt Ward said. “Team work is essential and everyone’s doing their job. We even shut off the radio in the locker room to get to know one another better.”

Penna told The Enterprise that the Dutchmen came up short in the fourth quarter of several games last season, which contributed to losses.

“I’m drilling the guys about keeping it strong in the fourth quarter and finishing games out,” said Penna. “We need lots of mental focus and conditioning to keep that up every week because all our opponents are good.”

Guilderland’s schedule is similar to last year. The team won’t have to play Niskayuna, but will have to play Columbia. The season kicks off on Sept. 4 against Bethlehem at home at 7 p.m.

“I know my guys want to take it to Bethlehem, but its never about just one team,” Penna said. “Nothing is set in stone. I just want them to come out and play hard, mistake- free football. I’ll be happy for that.”

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