Dip in numbers not a worry for HF
HOOSICK, N.Y. — The number of kids playing football at Hoosick Falls this season is low.
Around 22 athletes were at practice on Tuesday morning, the second day of football practice in New York state. It may seem shocking to those outside the program, remembering back to the days of a few years ago when 40 or 50 kids would be on the field.
But coach Ron Jones said this is a trend that he and his assistant coaches noticed years ago when looking toward the future of Hoosick Falls football.
"We knew this was coming when they were in elementary school," said Jones, who is also an elementary physical education teacher at the school. "We'll be low again next year. We have two juniors on the team."
Also, three players that Jones had last season moved out of the district.
"There's not a lot of [boys] participating in sports, they aren't playing soccer, a few are doing cross-country," Jones said.
Jones can't worry about the kids that aren't there, he's got to worry about the ones that are. And he feels that he'll have enough to be competitive in Class C.
"Even having 70 kids, there's 15 or 16 taking the most snaps in the regular part of the game," said Jones, who enters his 23rd season as the head coach of the Panthers. "I really need 16 or 17 guys that can play at a varsity level, and then tell me why we can't compete because I won't believe it. The kids will get a ton of coaching and we'll compete."
One position on the field that has less of a question mark in is the backfield. Liam McGarvin, Josh Colegrove and Max Kipp all return from a year ago, with McGarvin coming off an injury.
"They can carry the football, they have speed," Jones said. "We have to get in shape and hustle. People are going to have to learn multiple positions, so if there's an injury, we're insulated against it. It's an adjustment as a coach to have had great numbers forever, and now it's a down cycle. We're not sounding the alarm, we'll train them up. The good news, every kid is getting a lot of individual coaching."
Last year, the top two running backs for the Panthers went down with injury, but still finished 5-4 last season, winning a Class C sectional quarterfinal game before falling to eventual champion Cambridge in the Class C semifinal.
"We should have been trash after they went down and we weren't," Jones said. "We were resilient and relentless. [This year] we'll just have to bring the young kids around quicker than normal and they will be on the field at some point, where normally we wouldn't have to. But they are athletes."
Jones said he's interested to see how Colegrove does after playing more than half the snaps as a freshman last season.
"He did a great job swimming in the big pool," Jones said. "Physically he's ready, he did well in the weight room this summer."
Despite the low numbers, Jones has preached about having pride in what the kids are doing.
"On the other side of this, if you hustle every day and work hard, what changes? They'll get better every day and come together as a team. If my 22 can do it, why not?" Jones said.
Hoosick Falls begins its season on Sept. 6 at home against the Corinth-Fort Edward co-op team. They travel up Route 22 to face Cambridge on Sept. 28 and finish the regular season on Oct. 18 against Hoosic Valley.
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