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Changes abound in class AA

Changes abound in class AA football this year.

Section II has gone from a three-division format to a two-division format, which means that only the top four teams in each division make the playoffs.

I just think the coaches are happy that more regular season games count (toward making the playoffs), said Troy head coach Jack Burger.

The two divisions are unbalanced, though, which leads to different scheduling concerns. The eight-team Empire Division " which features defending Sectional champion Christian Brothers Academy " play only divisional opponents during the seven-week regular season, while the seven teams in the Liberty Division must supplement their six-game league schedule with one out-of-section game.

There are also four new coaches this year, though one of them (Burger) is returning following several years away from the sideline. Terry Jones replaces Blase Iuliano at Saratoga, Matt Gormley takes over for Jim Smith at CBA and Carm Depoalo is in at Schenectady following Vince Pagano's departure.

"I'm excited about (moving up)," said Jones, who was one of Iuliano's assistants. "I think things are going fairly well so far."

Here is a look at the 15 class AA teams.

Empire Division

Albany Falcons

Head coach: Joe Burke

Key veterans: David Dollard (offensive line/nose guard), Raith Ellis (tight end/linebacker), Shane Febus (quarterback/linebacker), Joshua Gordon (running back/linebacker), John Grogan (offensive line/defensive line), Chad McCray (running back/linebacker), Malcolm Nunnaly (wide receiver/defensive back)

Key newcomer: Jose George (running back/defensive back)

Outlook: The Falcons are hoping to make a run at a playoff berth, even though they are in a tough division. "A lot of guys are returning " a lot of young, contributing guys," said assistant coach Chris Poulopoulos. "I think we've just got to play sound, fundamental football."

Ballston Spa Scotties

Head coach: John Bowen

Key veterans: Steve Duncan (running back/defensive back), Eric Marciano (running back/defensive end), Jason Ohnsman (offensive line/linebacker), Mitch Lauritsen (offensive line/linebacker), Chris Callanan (offensive line/defensive line), Dan Decker (running back/linebacker), Jim Tino (wide receiver/defensive back)

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