By Rob Potter
SULLIVAN COUNTY September 2, 2003 With two weeks of practices completed, the countys high school varsity football teams are ready to take to the playing field this weekend.
As is the case just about every autumn, school enrollment figures have changed some of the teams classifications.
This fall, Liberty and Sullivan West will be Class B teams. (While SW was also a Class B team in 2002, Liberty was the only Section IX Class C team last season.) The Indians and Bulldogs will compete in one of two Section IX Class B divisions.
Joining Liberty and SW in their division will be Ellenville, Highland and Spackenkill.
SW travels to Liberty on Thursday, September 25 in what could be a key Class B game.
Liberty opens its season by hosting Tri-Valley in a non-league contest at 1:30 p.m. this Saturday (Sept. 6).
SW also opens its 2003 season this Saturday. In a battle of the dogs, the SW Bulldogs will host Section IVs Delhi Bulldogs, a Class C team.
Tri-Valley is one of only two Section IX Class C football teams this fall. The other is Pine Plains, a high school in Dutchess County.
As already noted, T-V opens its sesaon with a visit to Liberty on Saturday.
Three county schools Eldred, Livingston Manor and Roscoe will be competing in Class D this season. They will be joined in the division by Chester, which is in its first year of varsity football, and Millbrook.
Eldred lost only two seniors to graduation and two running backs who each ran for more than 1,000 yards last season senior Vinny Reilly and junior Kyle Schneider are among the teams several returning juniors and seniors.
After posting a 1-7 record in 2001, the Yellowjackets were 3-6 last season.
Eldred opens its season Saturday night with a non-league game at Rye Neck, which is a Section I Class D team.
Roscoe had a very successful 2002 season as the Blue Devils posted an 8-2 overall record and won the Section IX Class D regular season title with a 4-0 record against fellow Class D teams.
And the teams only two losses came to rival Livingston Manor, which defeated Roscoe 26-7 in the Section IX Class D championship game, and Dobbs Ferry, which went on to win the state Class D championship.
Looking ahead to this season, veteran coach Fred Ahart noted that the Blue Devils lost nine key seniors to graduation. Brian Ballard and Dave Eggleton were named to the All Section IX team and the other seven Joe Anderson, Dusty Bury, Rob Evans, Greg Feeney, Tim Haas, Travis ODell and Dan Park were named to the Section IX Class D all-star team either as first team, second team or honorable mention selections.
In addition, Bury was chosen as the defensive MVP in the Blue Devils loss to Manor in the Class D title game at Dietz Stadium in Kingston.
But Ahart noted that Roscoe has a good nucleus of returning players for this season. They include: seniors Justin Bowers, Rob Eggleton and Brenden Hendrickson; juniors Joe Bowers, Chris DeVeau, Steven Ryder and Dusty Sullivan and sophomores Dan DeVantier, Troy Kirchner, James Madera and Shawn Wilcox.
Freshmen John Dertinger, Derek Haas and Tyler Schmidt could also see some playing time.
Thats what high school football is all about, Ahart said. Each year you have players graduate and the new and returning players have to come in ready to step up and play.
Looking at his teams schedule, Ahart noted that a highlight will be the Blue Devils September 26 home game versus Tri-Valley. The contest will be a Friday night game that kicks off at 8 p.m.
For the second consecutive year, a donation from the Tony Bryztwa Memorial Fund will enable the school to bring in temporary lights to hold a Friday night game.
Roscoe schedule opens its season with a non-league game Saturday versus Dobbs Ferry at Dietz Stadium.
Ahart and his players are ready for the season to begin.
Were looking forward to it, he said. We take pride in the fact that we are, by far, the smallest school in New York State to play football.
Manor, which went 8-3 overall, had a very memorable 2002 season. The Wildcats defeated rival Roscoe in the Section IX Class D championship game and gave eventual state Class D champion Dobbs Ferry quite a scare in a 15-14 loss in a state Class D quarterfinal game at Dietz Stadium in Kingston.
Coach Scott Branning noted that he lost several key starters to graduation. Among them were Jesse Carlson, Travis Morton, Remington Parker, John Henry Schleiermacher, Brian Smith and Brian Will.
We have a good little nucleus of players returning, though, Branning said.
Among the returning players are senior end/linebacker Patrick Branning, senior defensive tackle Evan Irwin, senior offensive tackle/linebacker Kyle Lackey, senior safety Terrence McCann, senior offensive tackle/linebacker James Smith, senior running back George Thomas, junior end/defensive lineman Dan Hinkley, junior running back/linebacker Derek Irwin, junior running back/safety Anthony Larry, junior quarterback Josh Mendez.
Juniors Oliver Robertson and Richard Trotti, both of whom played primarily on defense last season, also return for the Wildcats.
Sophomores Dan Smith and Lee Sanabria should see some playing time on the offensive line and sophomore Jason Banks should see some playing time on defense.
We have a very tough early season schedule, Branning said. We face Deposit, Dobbs Ferry and Valhalla in three of our first six games.
This Saturday, Manor travels to Deposit, a Section IV Class D team that reached the semifinals in the 2002 Section IV Class D playoffs. On Saturday, September 13, the Wildcats host Dobbs Ferry in a rematch of last Novembers state playoff game. Then on October 11, Manor faces Valhalla, a Section I Class C team.
Were just going to take it one game at a time and hope nobody gets hurt, Branning said of those early season non-league contests.
As far as Class D competition goes, Branning sees it as wide open.
He noted that Eldred and Millbrook both have a lot of players returning from last season.
If you lose one [Class D] game, youre in trouble, he said of reaching the Section IX Class D title game. Then you have to hope someone does you a favor by defeating one of the other contending teams.