HOOSICK, N.Y. -- Despite not losing 40 straight sectional games, something always seemed to stop the Hoosick Falls Central School football team from reaching the top.
But not in 2012. Everything came together for the Panthers in a magical 13-0 campaign, capped off by a 34-21 win over Hornell in the Class C championship, a victory that stopped Hornell’s 51-game win streak.
Many of the starters, including quarterback Billy Pine, tailback Brad Burns and receiver Randy Tutunjian, are playing at the college level. So while many might see the Panthers dropping away, the consensus in Hoosick is a return trip to the Carrier Dome.
"We lose a lot of stats, no doubt and a lot of heart and soul too," said coach Ron Jones. "It was an awesome group but unfortunately they’re gone, I can’t keep them for another year. We’ll move forward."
Jones scoffed at the thought that players like Pine and Burns are unreplaceable.
"Three years ago, we couldn’t replace Mike Brewster, but we let Billy be Billy," Jones said. "They said we couldn’t replace Tanner [Williams] or that we can’t replace Brad or Randy. But Levi Brewster will be Levi Brewster, even better than last year."
With most games blowouts, the second team got a lot of playing time -- something that will pay dividends this season.
"We do have a lot of guys that played a fair amount, younger guys played more and more," Jones said. "Quite a few have experience and it was huge to play the extra month, especially against really good teams."
One of those players is junior Garrett Wright, who after a battle with Troy Constantino in the preseason, is likely to get the start on Sept. 7 in the season opener.
"Garrett’s in front but they’re both solid. Garrett went to five camps," Jones said. "He’s been throwing one or two times a day, he’s done a lot of video work, he’s definitely ready."
In the backfield, Brandon Hodges and Mike Mattat will battle for the top spot, but each will get a significant number of carries.
"We lost a lot of talent, but with hustle and practice, we can get back [to the Dome]," Hodges said. "Being the most physical team is a big part of it and being mentally tough as well. We have a lot more experience on the field and playing in the big games."
On the line, Logan Hoyt, Pascal Wilkins and sophomore Evan Hand could make a big difference leading the way for Hodges, Matatt and Wright.
"They understand the pace you need to beat good teams," Jones said. "We’re preparing for the best team on our schedule. The older guys have a good attitude, younger guys need to learn the way of the Panther."
On defense, there’s a lot of depth with guys such as Mark Hackett, Austin Pitt, Matatt, David Hardesty and Connor McCart. Colby Davendonis, a junior, should get time as well.
"Lots of guys are worthy of varsity time, we’ll try to rotate them in as much as we can," Jones said. "The second team guys last year developed niches -- Hackett played a little more as time went on and gained a lot of experience."
In the defensive backfield, Levi Brewster will lead the way. Brewster had two interceptions in the championship game.
"We have to have toughness and discipline, if we don’t , we won’t make it very far," Brewster said. "We worked hard in the off-season. We won states last year, but that was last year. We have a [target] on us, everyone wants to beat us." Girls soccer
Coach: Tom Husser (13th season)
Last year: 21-2, won Class C state championship
The team: After winning the past two state championships, Hoosick Falls could be forgiven if they were in a rebuilding year after losing three of their four top scorers to graduation. "You lose that many goals, you don’t just get it back," Husser said. But while it’s a different team, the quality has not gone away. Leading scorer Jordan Haynes, a sophomore, returns for her fourth season with 61 goals, only seven shy of setting a new school record. Junior Rachel Pine and senior Mackenzie Hinchliffe will shore up the middle of the field. "Both of those players are All-State-type players," Husser said. Starters up front includes Dana O’Malley and Casey Main. In the back, Hannah Lilac, Claire Seifert, Alyssa Houghton and Alyssa Giordano will have the task of stopping other offenses. Sophomore Megan Flynn comes up from the JV. Hannah Fricke returns in net after allowing one playoff goal in seven games.
Opener: Sept. 3 vs. Burr and Burton Academy
Coach: Mike Young
Last year: 17-6, reached Class C Final Four
The team: After the best season in program history, Young said the team can’t base its expectations on last year. "The kids are still trying to get a handle on the ride from last year, but we have to be realistic," he said. "Teams know we’re good now." Leading scorers Tyler Carr, Taylor Baker and Chris Lacroix have graduated. A strength will be in the back, as returners Tyler Gaines, Justin Gaines and Tyler Rondeau man the defense. Noah Chani, a major part of the Final Four run, returns in net. Drew Phillips comes back from an injury that kept him out for most of the season and Young said he could be one of the best midfielders in the Wasaren League. Junior Max Haar will also be in midfield. Alex LaBarge and Cole Webster lead on the attack.
Opener: Sept. 4 vs. Chatham, 6 p.m.
* Coach: Denise Campbell
* Last year: 15-4, lost in Class C sectional final
* The team: With a loss in the freezing cold in the Class C sectional final, the team is motivated to take the next step in 2013. "We have a great group of girls back. We have a group of hard workers who want to do well," Campbell said. All-star goalie Frankie Pearson graduated. Ashley St. Onge and Zaynah Poore will battle for the top spot in the cage. Leading scorer Allyson Burdick and second-leading scorer Liz Ryan, each freshman, are working hard on passing and making better opportunities in the offensive zone. After combining for 13 goals, seniors Caytlyn Springer and Olivia Schneider are back. After an injury in the spring, Erika Quackenbush is healthy and should get time at the sweeper spot. "In 2009 [the last regional appearance], we had a nice core group but we had some unexpected players come through," Campbell said. "That’s what we need this year also."
* Opener: Sept. 4 vs Granville, 4:15 p.m.
* Coach: Pam Hatfield
* Last year: 10-4
* The team: In the early matches so far this season, Eric Bloomer has been the leader in the clubhouse, medaling three times, including against Granville and Cambridge. Senior Justin Lynch has the No. 2 spot, while Jake Nolan, Hayden Smith and Connor Smith filled out the scorers. Other team members include Will Bradley, Brandon Decker, Andrew Hoag, Will Kennedy, Gavin Playotes, Chris Redick, Chelsea Stevens and Madison Taber.
* So far: 2-2, next match vs. Stillwater, Sept. 3 at 4:15 p.m.