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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 26, 2010

Returning seniors head up Blackbirds’ football team

By Jordan J. Michael

VOORHEESVILLE –– Coaching a football team is much easier when most of the players already know what to do and what to anticipate.

The Blackbirds are returning 17 seniors and four juniors for the 2010 season and Head Coach Joe Sapienza is delighted to see everyone back.

“We’re picking up where we left off,” Sapienza said at Voorheesville’s practice on Friday afternoon. It’s his 21st year as head coach and one of his biggest returning classes ever. “I have 17 guys that know what to expect and they’re models for the younger kids. It’s a great situation.”

One player that won’t be returning is Jerry Clark, who took his own life last spring. “He was our heavy hitter,” said senior quarterback Ryan Duncan. “He was a great person.”

Out of the large number of returning players, eight come back to start on offense and seven follow up on defense. “This isn’t traditional for a smaller school,” said Sapienza. “But, we’ll take it.”

“We have amazing chemistry because everyone is back,” said Duncan, who is a starter for the third year in a row. “Everyone has improved their game.”

Sapienza and Duncan have been running the offense together for a few years now and Sapienza is “looking for spectacular games from the quarterback.” During one stretch last season, Duncan threw 80 consecutive passes without an interception.

“I felt like he slid under the radar,” Sapienza said of Duncan’s 2009 performance. “He’s accepted the leading role and he has a lot of weapons around him. I’ll let him make the adjustments.”

Duncan will have throwing outlets to four unyielding receivers –– James Currier, Nick Brockley, Russ Daly, and Alex Kundel –– as well as brawny running backs, Max Schuster and Jason Slingerland.

Schuster told The Enterprise that Slingerland is “quick off the ball” and mentioned that newcomer Nate Crawford is “catching on quick.” “We’ve got to trust each other and share the ball,” said Schuster.

“We should be able to drive the ball down field and have big-play abilities,” added Sapienza.

The Blackbirds committed to two team camps over the summer months –– one with Guilderland in June and another with Ravena in late July. “You get a good sense of where your team is at,” Sapienza said. “We interacted very well.”

During the camp with Guilderland, Duncan got to work with quarterback Ryan Smith, who led Section II in passing last year. “It was neat to see those two great quarterbacks work together,” said Sapienza. “They talked a lot and learned from each other.”

Senior Brian Katchman said that the offensive line is “a little thin” after losing CJ Bouvier, Chad Hoffart, and Russell Stark. But, Katchman didn’t seem to be too worried about it.

“I’m trying to be as vocal as possible and answer all the questions,” Katchman said. “I can already tell that the new guys are willing to hit and take a hit, too.”

Voorheesville had a drastic improvement from 2-7 in 2008 to 6-3 in 2009, but the team flopped in its first round playoff game at Cambridge, losing 41 to 0. The weather was bad and the Blackbirds’ play was even worse.

“That was a lousy way to end a good season and everyone was extremely disappointed,” Sapienza said. “These kids want to win and it bothers them if they lose or make a mistake. I don’t think these players will let something like that happen again.”

The Blackbirds have a scrimmage at Albany Academy on Aug. 29 at 10 a.m. and then the team opens its season up on Sept. 4 at home against Mechanicville at 1 p.m.

“All the players have grown physically and they’re a year older emotionally, too,” said Sapienza. “The seniors are focused and dedicated to make this year the best it possibly can be.”

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