Recorder file photo
Four Amsterdam defenders take down Queensbury’s Tyrell Adams during an October 2013 game at Lynch Literacy Academy.
By ADAM SHINDER
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- Three-hundred thirty-eight.
The number sticks out like a sore thumb, and every person associated with the Amsterdam High School football program knows it.
The Rams may have scored 332 points last year, they may have exceeded 40 points in all five of their wins and twice topped the 50-point barrier, but that number ended up mattering far less than the 338 the team surrendered.
For a program that's long prided itself on aggressive defense and toughness in the trenches, that number is far, far too high.
Reducing it has been priority No. 1 in the Rugged Rams' camp this preseason.
"That's been the emphasis this year," head coach Doug Edick said.
Last year's Rams struggled in most phases of the defensive game, but none of them bit Amsterdam in the backside so much as the team's struggle to make tackles in the open field. Big plays, both by opposing offenses and on special teams, plagued the Rams even in their five wins a season ago.
This summer, an effort's been made to curtail those problems with a much greater emphasis on tackling and physicality in practice.
Players like senior defensive end Marcus Pritchard have relished the step up in intensity.
"Every day, we're doing tackling drills, we're doing form tackling," Pritchard said. "We're getting meaner and meaner. Running into each other, hitting each other. Ruthlessness. We're trying to teach ruthlessness right now, because it's something we didn't have last year. We need more of a killer's attitude. We need to go out there and take what's ours."
The Rams are focused on improving at the point of attack, where Pritchard, fellow defensive end Troy Wyszomirski and tackles Brian Cranker and Chad Pine -- all of them seniors -- are set to start. At linebacker, senior Brady McGillin is the only returning starter on the inside, where he's joined by junior Marcus Torres, with Adel Rosario and Keenan Holloway manning the outside spots. Junior Bryan Stanavich has nailed down the starting safety spot, and while senior James Valentin is all but assured to start at one cornerback slot, competition is wide open on the other side of the formation with the likes of Luigi Iorio, David Crawford and Marvin Robles competing for playing time.
No matter the particular personnel grouping, McGillin -- who relays in the defensive signals from Edick in the Rams' huddle -- has seen his team progress as preseason work has moved on.
"We're getting better and better every day," he said. "Defensively, we've picked it up 10 times from (the start of camp)."
Much of that can be credited to a slightly more aggressive style of playcalling. McGillin and Torres are both active blitzers, and Edick's hoping to use that in an attempt to create the game-changing defensive plays the Rams were unable to consistently produce a year ago.
"They like coming on blitzes, but I also think they're making tackles sideline-to-sideline and we have 11 guys running to the ball," Edick said. "But, I've got to see it our scrimmage against Schenectady. Then, I'll see how well we really do tackle."
"We're definitely out here to hit," said senior Tony Isabel. "We want to make it a strong part of our defense, and we want everybody out here wanting to hit. We want to get everybody into the action."
If they can do that, the Rams are confident they can let the numbers their offense can put up tell much more of the story this season.
"The defense is the big thing this year, because we're gonna score on offense, no matter what," McGillin said. "Defense is where we need to pick it up, and we have."
Contact ADAM SHINDER at email@example.com