By MICHAEL KELLY
We were all granted our late-winter gift last week when the Section II football schedules were released, as the road map for the 2014 high school season can now be poked and prodded.
While I'm not going to dive too deep into the nitty-gritty of how our four local teams -- Amsterdam, Broadalbin-Perth, Canajoharie and Fonda-Fultonville -- project for the upcoming season, it cannot hurt to have a little bit of fun looking ahead to the fall's gridiron campaign.
Ignoring the schedule's obvious fun piece -- both Amsterdam and F-F are heading to the Carrier Dome in Week 1 -- here are the five things that have most grabbed my attention:
After that trip to Syracuse in Week 1, the Rugged Rams will embark on a campaign in the Section II Class A Southeast Division after playing in the Northwest for years. A few things stick out about the Rams' move ...
One: The Rams won the travel battle this season. While the Week 6 one-way haul to Troy will take the club almost an hour, the only other road game AHS has is at Mohonasen, which is just about a half hour away. Meanwhile, Averill Park (over an hour; Week 3), Lansingburgh (an hour; Week 5) and Bishop Maginn (50 minutes; Week 7) all have to come to Amsterdam for the remainder of the Rams' league slate.
Two: Let's be clear about one thing -- AHS got moved to the Southeast Division so that Class A's perennial powers (AHS, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Troy and Queensbury) are evenly split between the divisions. Geography had nothing to do with the changes. With that said, AHS really lucks out in getting to the Southeast; Northwest "also-rans" like Gloversville and Scotia-Glenville are going to be much better than their counterparts in the Southeast.
Three: AHS does keep its rivalry game with Gloversville, which will be played in Amsterdam in Week 4. I've been told that even with the teams in opposite divisions, this game will continue to be played every year for the foreseeable future.
TOUGH TO BE 'B'
The major shake-ups in the section had the oddest effect on the schedules for Class B teams: Nearly every team in this classification has either a game against a Class A or a Class C school.
In the case of Broadalbin-Perth, this makes for one great non-league matchup in Week 4 when the Patriots will travel to play Class C powerhouse Hoosick Falls.
The way that the Class C schedules have worked in recent years, those clubs have never got the chance to play against non-classification foes. The chance to see Hoosick Falls "play up" is one that a lot of Section II fans have clamored for as the Panthers dynasty has reigned, and B-P will present a great challenge for head coach Ron Jones' five-time defending champion.
Certainly, Hoosick Falls has heard the rumblings that many have wanted them to play against a bigger school and the Panthers will be motivated to play host to B-P. It should make for an electric atmosphere.
HOW COULD THEY?
As we move to Class C, the obvious head-scratcher of a move is the switch to three divisions, which is going to cause all types of migraines when the postseason rolls around.
But my pet peeve: How is there no game between F-F and Watervliet?
Has the rivalry been one-sided in recent years? Yes, as the Braves have consistently prevailed against the Cannoneers -- but the games have been great. Those contests have been well-played and there does seem to be a real animus between the squads.
That hostility has never boiled over, though, and has instead led to some super-intense football. I'm sad to see that one go, and hoping the clubs meet up in the postseason.
GOOD LUCK OUT THERE
The schedule makers did the Canajoharie Cougars no favors.
There are three opponents that the Cougars care about more than others in Cambridge, Rensselaer and Salem ...and only one of those games -- against Cambridge in Week 2 -- comes as a home game for the Cougars.
Making things tougher for Canajoharie is that the club's trips to Rensselaer and Salem come in the final two weeks of the season. Regardless of wins or losses, that means the Cougars are going to be headed into the playoffs with some fresh battle scars, if Canajoharie is fortunate enough to earn a postseason bid.
Also, after the Cougars get three home games in their first four outings, Canajoharie ends its regular season with three road trips.
OK, so, I kind of lied about only having five things. Let's rapid-fire through some miscellaneous stuff throughout Section II. ... I understand why AHS and BH-BL are not playing this year. The clubs are no longer divisional foes and I doubt either side was gung-ho about playing host to that game the year after 2013's ugly incident. But it is a loss for area football when two rivals are not scheduled to see one another. ... Cohoes apparently does not have a home field this season and is playing all of its games on the road. First up? A visit to B-P, where the Patriots and Tigers will throw down after last season's classic of a postseason semifinal. Good luck living up to that one, guys. ... Since some Class B schools have to play Class A schools, I'm not surprised powerhouse Schalmont was selected as a school to "play up." But was anyone clamoring for a rematch of Schalmont and BH-BL after the Spartans dismantled the Sabres a couple years ago? Hopefully Schalmont can keep this one competitive at home. ... You'd be hard-pressed to find a more favorable schedule than the one Class B's Schuylerville received. In divisional games, the Black Horses -- a likely playoff squad this season -- gets both B-P and Johnstown at home, with its only tough trip coming when it heads to Glens Falls. ... The Braves' Class C South Division could be one of the strangest divisions in recent memory. That division's top two teams -- Chatham and F-F -- are going to be multiple-touchdown favorites against every other squad in that division.
Follow MICHAEL KELLY on Twitter at twitter.com/RecorderMK