By Rob Potter
GRAHAMSVILLE Coach John Rusin and the Tri-Valley Bears are ready for the 2006 football season to begin.
After winning the Section IX Class C title in 2003 and 2004, the Bears suffered a tough defeat to Sullivan West in last Novembers Class C championship game at Dietz Stadium in Kingston.
Many of those T-V players are returning this season and looking for another opportunity to compete in a postseason game at Dietz.
Mentally and physically were ready for the season to start, said Rusin, who takes over as the Bears head coach after serving as an assistant coach for the past five seasons. One of the things we have really worked on in preseason practices is our conditioning. Thats something we can control, to make sure we go out there in good physical condition.
One of the drills the Bears have performed each day since preseason workouts began on August 14 is running up and down a steep hill adjacent to the teams practice field.
Currently, there are 42 players on the combined varsity and JV roster. Rusin said that number should increase to between 45 and 50 in the next few weeks as a few players return from vacations and recover from injuries.
The Bears have five seniors on the 2006 roster Kyle Byrne, Max Fiedler, James Knapp, Kevin Smith and Brendan Walsh. All of them except Knapp are returning players.
Rusin noted the team has a solid core of juniors. Among those juniors are Nick Cassidy, Kevin Drown, Sean Drown, Charlie Edwards, Garrett Grey, Bo Murphy and Brendan Musso.
Sophomores who are expected to see a great deal of playing time this fall include Bobby Fiedler, Dustin Van Lieu, Ryan Van Lieu and Andrew Yager.
As he watched his players run through some drills during steady rain showers this past Tuesday afternoon, Rusin said he was very excited about his inaugural season as the T-V head coach.
Its a lot of work, but these assistant coaches and players make things easier for me, he commented. The coaching staff is great and the players are very enthusiastic and excited about the season.
Helping Rusin to guide the Bears this autumn will be Assistant Coaches Scott Grey, Mike March and Joe Porcaro. Grey has coached the T-V modified football teams the past few years, while March and Porcaro are entering their second and eighth seasons, respectively, as varsity assistants.
The Bears begin the new season tomorrow by hosting Ellenville in a non-league game, which is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.
It definitely helps to have your first game of the season at home, Rusin said.
He noted that like his team, Ellenville should be fired up and ready to go for the season opener.
Later this fall, T-V will face fellow Class C teams Millbrook, Pine Plains and Sullivan West.
All three of those teams are very well-coached, Rusin said. It should be a very competitive division.
Like Rusin, the T-V players are eager for the season to kickoff.
We have a fast team and a great line, said Cassidy, who is in his second year on the varsity squad and plays at the tight end and linebacker positions. I cant wait to get out on the field.
This is also Max Fiedlers second year on the varsity team.
Weve got a lot of heart on this team, he said. Everybody hustles and works hard.
While Edwards saw some playing time on the varsity level last autumn, this will be his first season as the Bears starting quarterback.
Everybody has some nerves and butterflies in their stomach at the beginning of a game, Edwards explained. But once you take that first hit, theyre gone and you focus on the game.
As far as the overall season goes, the junior QB is hoping for a return trip to Dietz Stadium.
Like Max said, this team has a lot of heart, Edwards commented. Right now, the goal for every team is to make it to Dietz. Hopefully with our heart and conditioning, we will be one of those teams at Dietz in November.