Michael Kelly/Recorder staff Head coach Jim Pelneau speaks to members of the Broadalbin-Perth football team during Monday's season-opening practice in Broadalbin.
Michael Kelly/Recorder staff Broadalbin-Perth senior Zach Morreale is shown during Monday's season-opening practice in Broadalbin.
By MICHAEL KELLY
BROADALBIN -- With a scowl and a wagging finger, Broadalbin-Perth head coach Jim Pelneau opened his football team's first practice of the 2014 season Monday with a warning and a solution.
"You will not sneak up on anybody this season," he said during an eight-minute monologue to kick off the practice. "So, we have to work twice as hard."
The Patriots stunned some in Section II a year ago, as B-P reached its first Super Bowl in 25 years. With a roster for 2014 including nearly 20 seniors, many laden with experience at key positions, the expectation is that the Patriots should be one of the favorites in the Section II Class B West Division and a legitimate threat to make it back to the Super Bowl.
With so many veterans on the field, Pelneau's fiery speech was not a surprise to the Patriots. After a busy offseason, B-P's crew knew what to expect on Day 1.
"That's just him letting us know that we're here to get better, and that we're not going to slack off," said versatile senior Tyler Schmidt. "We're here to do better than last year."
The squad's first game is more than a couple weeks away, but senior linebacker Biagio Bucciferro -- who spent his offseason successfully rehabilitating a torn ACL in his left knee, suffered in practice just days before the 2013 Super Bowl -- said the club has a steady stream of goals to work through this postseason, starting with a major one for this week.
"We want to be the best-conditioned team after this week, better than any team in any league or classification," he said.
Pelneau helped out with that goal early in the workout. After some initial warm-up drills, the Patriots began walking toward the middle of Patriot Field to receive their next set of instructions.
"I don't like the walk," called out Pelneau. "Jog it."
Most of the Patriots came into Monday's practice ready to roll. B-P's players participated in weight-training sessions throughout the offseason, 7-on-7 scrimmaging and a pair of team camps to be prepared for the first day of official workouts. The result was that the B-P players were able to fly through opening drills of the evening practice.
Helping out was some extra adrenaline. While the Patriots' work toward the 2014 season began not long after their Super Bowl loss to Schalmont, Bucciferro said the official nature of Monday's practice gave the squad's athletes some extra giddy-up.
"It's different," he said. "You circle this day on your calendar. This is the day where we start really working, where everything starts to count. ... Mentally, we change."
Despite all of the Patriots' offseason preparation, the squad does have a lot of work to do this preseason. Notably the program needs to rebuild its defensive line and secondary, and B-P already has a pair of players -- sophomore Jesse Greco (foot) and senior Damion Jabot (collar bone) -- expected to miss at least the first few weeks of the season.
Still, Pelneau's biggest concern Monday was making sure his team knew that last year's success was in the past. One of the primary goals of the preseason, he said, was to give the squad's upperclassmen and leaders enough room to figure out the makeup of this year's Patriots.
"They need to start to form their own identity," Pelneau said.
That might take some time, but Schmidt said the end goal for this year's Patriots has already been set. After making it to the Super Bowl in 2013, the goal for this season is to build on last year's success.
"We're going to beat what we did," he said.
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