Panthers aim for turnaround in 2017
But the last two seasons have been lean ones for the Panthers, and coach Ron Jones is hoping that 2017 can be one that gets Hoosick Falls back into the conversation in Class C.
"We're a smaller team, numbers-wise," said Hoosick Falls coach Ron Jones. "We have two classes in a row that doesn't have a lot of boys, we knew it was coming. So we're a little lower on numbers."
Lower numbers doesn't mean less experience, however.
"We had a core group of guys that worked really hard in the offseason and some of the guys who will step into roles also worked hard," said Jones, who is entering his 21st season leading the Panthers and comes into the year with 141 career victories.
The Class C schedule is a little different this season with some teams, like Greenwich and Hoosic Valley, moving down to Class C.
Hoosick Falls is still in Class C North, but there are only two divisions, North and South. The schedule is still a tough one, as right out of the gate, they travel to play Lake George and Corinth before returning to Ken Baker Field for a Week 3 matchip with Stillwater. Hoosick played all three last year, going 1-2.
The rest of the schedule has the Panthers traveling to Coxsackie-Athens in Week 4 and then to Fonda-Fultonville in Week 5 before back-to-back home games to end the regular season against Holy Trinity and Mechanicville.
"I'm not sure what to expect this from the C's," Jones said. "Stillwater, Mechanicville and Holy Trinity should be pretty good, but there's been a lot of coach turnover — Corinth, Mechanicville and Coxsackie all have new coaches. There's a lot of unknowns. Fonda didn't have the year it wanted last year, but you can never count them out. All I know is we have to take care of our business, but to do that, we have to improve and keep on getting better every day."
The quarterback position will be a battle throughout camp, with Brandon Decker, Sam Richard and Max Kipp all vying for the top spot as last year's starter, Aaron Tomczak, graduated. But Jones said even after one is picked, the other two will be rotating in at running back.
"Their effort this summer was unreal. Each guy will get a chance to prove themselves, but all of them will be in the mix, they've got to be on the field somewhere, they are good football players," Jones said.
At practice on Tuesday, Decker and Richard were running with the first team offense.
"Brandon has matured a lot, he's open to two-way communication with his receivers and with me," Jones said. "He has a great attitude and way more confidence then he did last year. I don't think he was ready last year, he wants to be on the field this year."
Some of the strongest experience will be at the receiver and defensive back positions, with guys including Jeffrey Vincent and Lucas Brogue, two of the top receivers, returning. David Everard, the leading receiver by catches and yards in 2016, returned to play soccer this fall.
"One of our hardest workers is Jeff, he looks good on offense and defense, he's someone we count on to lead us and he's coaching the younger guys at his position," Jones said. "He's helping others and that shows he knows what he's doing right now."
At least on Day 2, Jones said there's more questions than answers.
"Maybe others have more than us, I don't know," Jones said. "Maybe we don't have enough? I don't know. But I know we can get better, and I'm optimistic that we'll grow."
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