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High school football: Class AA football preview

Change comes to Shen and Colonie, but list of contenders remain the same

New Shenendehowa coach Brian Clawson, second from right, is looking to guide the Plainsmen to another Section II Class AA football title with the assistance of several returning players including, from left, quarterback Ryan Buss, lineman Christopher Stewart and running back Lucas Buckley. Shen begins its first season without longtime coach Brent Steuerwald Friday at Albany.

New Shenendehowa coach Brian Clawson, second from right, is looking to guide the Plainsmen to another Section II Class AA football title with the assistance of several returning players including, from left, quarterback Ryan Buss, lineman Christopher Stewart and running back Lucas Buckley. Shen begins its first season without longtime coach Brent Steuerwald Friday at Albany. Photo by Rob Jonas.

There is one name associated with Section II Class AA football that is conspicuous in its absence this season, and that is Brent Steuerwald.

The founder and long-time Shenendehowa coach retired after the Plainsmen won last year’s Sectional championship. The program is now in the hands of Brian Clawson, one of Steuerwald’s assistant coaches.

“It’s been a true honor and privilege to be named head coach at Shen,” said Clawson. “It was good to be named in February, so I could start working with the guys.”

Though Steuerwald won’t be on the sidelines for the first time in 45 years, the Plainsmen aren’t planning on leaving their perch atop Section II without a fight. Several veterans are back to give Shen a shot at repeating as Sectional champions.

“My goal is to carry on the traditions and legacies of coach Steuerwald and to transition the program into a new era,” said Clawson.

The only other coaching change in Class AA is at Colonie, where Bill Roemer takes over for Mike Ambrosio. Like Clawson, Roemer has several veterans on his roster. Unlike Clawson, though, Roemer’s goal is to lift the Garnet Raiders back into contention following two consecutive last-place finishes in the Liberty Division.

“I think we have some returning speed, but I also think our strength will be up front with our offensive and defensive lines,” said Roemer.

The Liberty Division team everyone has their sights set on is Columbia, which finished first in 2011 and reached the Class AA championship game. Shaker, Niskayuna and Schenectady are among the contenders hoping to knock the Blue Devils from the top spot.

“The division is tougher than last year,” said Columbia coach Craig Cavotta. “We start right away with Schenectady, and they’ve got a lot of players back at the (offensive) skill positions and the offensive line.”

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