Section II, Class AA football is leaner and meaner this year.
Troy and Queensbury dropped down to Class A, leaving 13 AA teams to contend for a berth in November's Super Bowl. And last year's Super Bowl combatants, LaSalle and Guilderland, each lost significant players to graduation.
Those factors open the door for several teams to take a shot at the Sectional title including Saratoga Springs, Bethlehem, Schenectady and Columbia. But the coaches know any team has a chance to make a run.
Class AA is loaded with very strong teams, said Saratoga coach Terry Jones. "Every week is going to be a challenge."
"I think there was a tremendous amount of parity last year, and I think there's more parity this year," added Ballston Spa coach John Bowen.
Here is a closer look at the Class AA field.
Head coach: Brian Spicer
Key players: Jake Valentine (senior QB/DB), Darrell McKnight (senior WR/LB), Dominique Daniels (senior RB/LB), Curtis Holloman (senior RB/DB)
Outlook: Spicer is hoping to get the Falcons acclimated to his style of play quickly as he takes the coaching reins from Joe Burke. "I really like what they're doing (in practice)," said Spicer. "It's not easy coming in and learning a new system." Albany will need some early wins in order to have a shot of making the playoffs. "With everything we're doing, we'll be learning as we go, but we can't afford to dig ourselves too deep of a hole," said Spicer.
Ballston Spa Scotties
Head coach: John Bowen
Key veterans: Matt Clark (senior TE/LB), Mark Seager (junior QB/DB), Chris Callanan (senior OL/DL), Van Huyben (senior OL/LB)
Key newcomers: Keenan Shannon (senior RB/DE), Shane LaChance (senior RB/DB/K), Nick Gallo (junior OL/DL), Mike Riani (junior OL/DL)
Outlook: The Scotties lost some speed around the edges with the graduation of tailbacks Eric Marciano and Steve Duncan. "You're going to have to replace that speed, and that's not going to be easy," said Bowen. "We're going to have to be more creative in terms of distributing the ball."