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Sunshine greets Colonie's football teams on first day of practice

The sun shone brightly and warmly on area high school fields as fall sports teams started their practices Monday.

In Latham, the Shaker football team received its first briefing from head coach Dennis Bender before hitting the weight room and the field.

It definitely feels good to put the helmet on and get going, said senior Matt McNeal.

Like many Section II football teams, Shaker has to fill the holes left by graduation of last year's senior class. But unlike other Section II, Class AA teams, the Blue Bison will be filling those holes with players from last year's junior varsity Super Bowl championship squad.

"Everybody has been working very hard this season, especially since they won the Super Bowl," said senior Mark Ambrosio.

Senior Parker Armsby said the key for the first week of practice will be to integrate the newcomers with the veterans.

"For me, it's about making a family out of this team," said Armsby. "That's the way (former JV) coach (Russ) Tapler taught us. It's all about being a family."

Shaker doesn't have a lot of time to prepare for the season. The Blue Bison open their schedule Sept. 5 when they host Newburgh Free Academy in their only non-divisional game.

Other area football teams are in the same boat as Shaker. Colonie " with interim head coach John Preston " begins its season Sept. 5 at defending Class AA champion LaSalle, while Christian Brothers Academy visits its old city rival Albany.

Preston is filling in for Mike Ambrosio, who is taking the season off from coaching the Garnet Raiders to follow his son Mark's exploits at Shaker.""

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