Adam Shinder/Recorder staff
Amsterdam football coach Doug Edick, standing center, talks to his team at the conclusion of an Aug. 18 practice in the town of Amsterdam.
Recorder file photo
Amsterdam’s James Valentin looks for a hole to run in as he is chased by Queensbury’s Erik Myers during their game last season at Lynch Literacy Academy.
By ADAM SHINDER
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- Marcus Pritchard's had enough of the disappointment.
Each of the last two seasons, Pritchard and the Amsterdam High School football team have been unceremoniously run out of the Section II Class A playoffs -- a 48-6 loss to Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in the 2012 Super Bowl and a 59-26 setback at the hands of Queensbury in last year's semifinals.
Now in his senior year as a defensive end, tight end and record-setting placekicker for the Rugged Rams, Pritchard is ready to turn the tables.
"The last two years I've been here, I know what it's like to lose on a heartbreaker," he said. "That effect you get after you watch your friends, especially the upperclassmen, lose and just have their hearts broken and their dreams broken, it motivates you. You don't want to have that feeling again."
To avoid that, to a man the Rams understand where the focus needs to lie.
"Our main focus is the defense this year," said senior lineman Troy Wyszomirski. "Defense, defense, defense."
Defensive struggles betrayed the Rams during last year's 5-4 season that saw them surrender 338 points, finish third in the Class A Northwest Division and eventually get bounced from the playoffs by the eventual state champion Queensbury Spartans.
This year, things are a bit different. A massive realignment in Section II football has thrown Class A on its ear, and the Rams have moved out of the Northwest Division to the Southeast. Instead of the familiar lineup of Quensbury, Gloversville, BH-BL and South Glens Falls, the Rams are now part of a six-team division with Troy, Averill Park, Mohonasen, Lansingburgh and Bishop Maginn.
Senior linebacker and fullback Brady McGillin said the Rams are excited about the change of scenery, but they're not too bothered by it.
"It's a different look. It's a completely new division, but it doesn't matter," McGillin said. "Whether it's someone like South Glens Falls, whether it's someone like Burnt Hills or Queensbury, we've got to step it up every game."
While the Rams do have four common opponents from their 2013 schedule -- Mohonasen, Troy, Averill Park and newly-minted non-league opponent Gloversville, a group the Rams went 4-1 against, including a two-game sweep of Averill Park -- there certainly is an air of change around this year's slate.
A great deal of that has to do with the way the season will open, as the Rams will make the voyage to Syracuse Sept. 6 to take on defending Section IX Class A champion Cornwall in the Carrier Dome as part of the three-day Kickoff Classic.
"It's real weird. We're used to seeing Queensbury, Burnt Hills, and now we're seeing Troy, Mohonasen, Lansingburgh, Cornwall in the Dome," senior quarterback Tony Isabel said. "It's a real good opportunity to see what you have and show what you can do against different defenses."
A week into preseason practice, third-year head coach Doug Edick could see the product of his team's motivation to make up for last season's deficiencies start to show on the practice field.
"I think we were flying around on defense, which was nice," Edick said. "They were making a little contact, and they know what they're doing out there. I think we're farther ahead this year than we have been in the past, which is good."
"It started off a little slow, and the intensity's definitely picked up," Isabel said. "Coaches just keep harping us to keep going, keep working hard, and everybody's buying into it. We don't have anybody here that's bringing our team down or slowing our practices down, so we're having real good practices."
Much of that, Pritchard said, comes from an air of familiarity that's bred into this crop of Rugged Rams -- one that happens to be heavy in three-year senior varsity veterans.
"A lot of us, over the years, we've all bonded as a unit between JV, lifting, summer stuff. It's great being out here with all my guys," he said. "We're like brothers out here. It's fun."
And after the disappointing way the Rams bowed out in each of their last two season finales, Pritchard and his fellow seniors are eager to turn things around -- not to mention finish the season in the same place they'll be starting it.
"A lot of us who were juniors last year, us and the class of 2014 were very close," Pritchard said. "After seeing them lose like that, it gave us a reality check. We realized that we've got one more year, and we've got to buckle down and make something of it.
"After last year, it was just devastating. We're trying to rebound from it right now, trying to build from it. We're saying that we've got a great opportunity. We're gonna start in the Dome, and our plan is we're gonna finish in it."
Contact ADAM SHINDER at firstname.lastname@example.org