The Section 2 Class AA football season starts Friday, Sept. 4, and Bethlehem and Guilderland are ready to go.
Bethlehem begins its season with a road trip to Saratoga Springs. After that, the Eagles play their first true home game in two years when Ballston Spa visits Delmar on Sept. 11.
“We’re going to try to come out strong at Saratoga, and then we finally get to play a game on our home field,” said senior tailback Ben Tietjen.
Guilderland opens at home against Schenectady before a visit to East Greenbush in Week 2. Friday will be Guilderland’s first glance at a junior class head coach Dan Penna said will hopefully help the Dutchmen bounce back from a 2-7 finish in 2014.
“I feel like we have a young team that’s anchored by some seasoned veterans,” said Penna. “I think we have some good team speed.”
Bethlehem graduated several key offensive skill position players from last year’s team that finished 6-3, including tailback Ben Zonca, quarterback Nick Crisorio and receivers Zach Mendlesohn and Tommy Ganley. However, head coach Rick Leach said he feels confident the Eagles will be fine with Tietjen taking over as lead running back and Ryan Starr moving into the starting quarterback position.
“We graduated our (starting) running backs before last year, too, and we didn’t miss a beat,” said Leach. “I expect that trend to continue this year.”
Tietjen said he’s looking forward to being the featured back after backing up Zonca last season.
“Me and Zonca, we’ve always run kind of the same way. We both have those long strides,” said Tietjen.
Guilderland graduated its best all-around player in quarterback/kicker Andrew Sentz, but retained lead running back Cameron Long and lineman Tim Pasquini to anhor this year’s offense.
“Tim and I are three-year veterans. We’ve played on two very different teams – one (in 2013) that had a lot of success, and one that did not,” said Long. “We’re hoping not to repeat what happened last year.”
With Niskayuna remaining an independent team this season, Bethlehem is back in the Liberty Division this year, where it will compete with Shaker, Schenectady, LaSalle, Colonie and Columbia for first place.
“It’s an advantage travel-wise for us, but other than that, it doesn’t make a difference (which division we’re in),” said Leach.
Guilderland is in the Empire Division, where it will face the likes of defending Sectional champion Shenendehowa, Class AA runner-up Christian Brothers Academy, Saratoga Springs, Ballston Spa and Albany.
“Every year, we know we’re going to face teams with size and teams that are physical,” said Penna. “We’ve been training hard this off-season to become more physical.”
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