Greg Sheeler didn't just inherit the Shaker varsity football team from Dennis Bender. He inherited the whole football program.
Sheeler enters his first season as the varsity head coach with a goal to make the Blue Bison a Section II power at all levels.
I'm not just the varsity head coach; I'm the head coach for all levels, said Sheeler. "We're really trying to make it a unified group in that regard."
Shaker has had some success at the junior varsity level in recent years, but varsity success has been hard to come by " primarily because the Blue Bison have been beset by key injuries.
Sheeler said he wants to build Shaker to the point where a series of injuries won't submarine its chances of making the Section II Class AA playoffs.
"If a kid goes down, someone else should be able to step up and take his place, and we won't miss a beat," said Sheeler. "That's the characteristic of a good team."
At least, Shaker has a depth of interest. Sheeler said he had approximately 100 students show up to try out for the varsity and JV teams.
The Blue Bison have several key players back from last year's team including quarterback Ben Capeless, running backs Conor Alund and Derek Gardella and receiver Chris Sherwin.
Alund is looking to build on a strong 2009 season in which he rushed for more than 100 yards several times.
"He's a big key, and he can't do it by himself," said Sheeler. "He needs the offensive line and the receivers [to block] in order for him to do his job."
Sheeler said he's also looking for Capeless to continue to mature as the offense's leader.
"We'll be balanced [between the pass and the run], and he's a big part of that along with the receivers," said Sheeler of Capeless. "He needs to make good decisions with the ball."
Shaker's first test will be Sept. 2 at home against its crosstown rival Colonie in the annual Colonie Cup game. Though the game takes place before school opens, Sheeler said both teams should be psyched for it.
"That was our motivation all off-season, just as I'm sure it's been their moti-vation," said Sheeler.""