Recorder file photo Amsterdam's Kaitlyn Devine clears the ball in front of Catholic Central's Madison Purcell during an October 2013 match at Lynch Literacy Academy.
Recorder file photo Amsterdam's Olivia Lazarou (5) runs during a 2014 meet in Albany.
Recorder file photo Amsterdam's Kory Bergh goes up for a shot past Troy's Zach Radz during a Jan. 23 game at Amsterdam High School.
Recorder file photo Fort Plain's Haley Kilmartin drives to the hoop during a Jan. 22 game in Galway.
By MICHAEL KELLY
Somehow, the 2014-15 high school sports calendar has already hit Day 1, with official practices opening today across the area.
I like to fashion the high school sports year as a 10-month sprint, as things won't calm down on the preps scene from now until mid-June. Luckily, there is a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks and months, and the following is my early glance at the 10 things I am most looking forward to seeing and covering during the 2014-15 academic year.
In no particular order:
We have classifications and leagues for a reason, as both systems allow for schools to find comparable competition for their teams. So, there is likely no storyline for this upcoming year packing more of an overall punch than how the transition of Amsterdam High School to the Foothills Council will affect things from a competition standpoint, both for the AHS teams and the non-rookie league members. My guess is that basketball and soccer, for both boys and girls, will see a sizable impact from the addition of AHS to the league, especially because of the divisional-nature the league will switch to for those sports.
Building on the changes to the Foothills Council, the non-stop games between division foes Amsterdam, Broadalbin-Perth, Gloversville and Johnstown should make for great atmospheres. While the non-AHS teams have been playing each other in league games for years, the additions of the Rams and Lady Rams make that Foothills Council division into a truly local league, and that change should make every game mean a little bit extra.
Last year, this was turned way up in the local area, with area squads peppering the semifinals and finals of the various Section II postseason tournaments. This year looks like it will be more of the same, as B-P and Fonda-Fultonville should be sectional title contenders, and the same goes for WAC frontrunners Galway and Mayfield.
This guy named Izaiah Brown is still around at AHS. Between the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons, the senior could win four state titles without making anyone blink an eye, and he's on his way to becoming one of the most-decorated AHS and Section II athletes -- ever. Plus, there is the whole matter of Brown's college recruitment, which is featuring elite schools from all around the country.
THE UP AND COMERS
Entering the year, we all have a pretty good idea what names are going to be dominating the local headlines, but there are always a couple that pop up that surprise us. The 2014-15 seasons should be no different, as new area stars will emerge in bunches after the region saw loads of stars graduate in 2014. In particular, we should see a fresh crop of stars revealed this football season, as many of the area's top players from last fall have graduated.
In area team sports, no squad has had a more dominant individual performer the past few years than the B-P girls soccer team with Katie Herba. Now that the Lady Patriots' all-time leader in pretty much every offensive category has graduated, the club will need to spend its first few weeks developing a new identity. Luckily, head coach Rob Klug's squad has enough talent that it should be able to stay very competitive as it finds its new way.
In the spring of 2014, the region's track and field stars shone bright, as area teams and athletes collected sectional titles and berths to the state championships in bunches. So many of the most-accomplished athletes from this past spring will be around in 2015, giving the region a legitimate chance to improve upon its three team sectional titles.
UNDERDOGS NO MORE
School numbers led to some major shifts in the football scene for 2014, and Section II Class B saw the most severe changes. Of local interest, the most important change came when perennial powerhouse Schalmont was moved out of the West Division, leaving the B-P Patriots as the presumptive division favorite for the first time in at least a decade, perhaps two. Coming off a Super Bowl berth in 2013, the Patriots should have their eyes on a similar prize in 2014.
UP TO THE TEST
The Scotia-Glenville boys basketball team dominated in 2013-14, posting an undefeated season on its way to a state championship. The Tartans return enough key pieces that a repeat could be in order, but I could see the Running Rams severely testing S-G. Head coach Tony Orapello's group for this upcoming winter is deep, talented and sizable, giving them all the pieces needed to put together a true contender in Class A.
For the past few years, little thought had to be put into how the WAC North was going to shake out for girls basketball. The duo of Abby Boyer and Haley Kilmartin led Fort Plain to three consecutive division titles, but both have moved on for 2014-15, leaving a major void atop the league. Challengers in Canajoharie and Mayfield should lead the charge to replace Fort Plain as the league's champion.
Follow MICHAEL KELLY on Twitter at twitter.com/ByMichaelKelly
Recorder file photo Broadalbin-Perth's Katie Herba celebrates with teammate Danielle Biggers after scoring a goal during an October 2013 game against Gloversville.