PARISH — Altmar-Parish-Williamstown ended its first season of eight-man football with a trip to the Syracuse Carrier Dome for the Section 3 championship last year, and will open its second season under the unique format with a chance to avenge that title game loss.
The Rebels will begin their varsity football season tonight as members of the Section 3 Eight-Man Class C Division by travelling to play at defending champion Weedsport. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.
The game provides a rematch of last year’s sectional final, which resulted in a 30-18 victory for the Warriors. APW, which compiled a 5-3 overall record in its debut eight-man campaign, also suffered a 46-8 loss to Weedsport during the 2018 regular season.
“It was crazy for all of us last year, just growing up watching games in the Dome and then to get a chance to play in it was crazy,” said APW senior Charles Stanard, who will take over as starting quarterback this season. “I think we can give our energy out to everyone else going into this year and just show them how much fun it would be to go there again.”
The Rebels return just three seniors and 10 players overall from last year’s runner-up squad, graduating 13 players, including varsity mainstays like former quarterback Jonathan Comstock and linebacker Cody Roe.
This year’s roster will include nine freshmen and about three or four upperclassmen playing the sport for the first time.
“We’re very young, so we’re just not sure what to expect this year,” said Scott Stanard, entering his fifth season as APW’s head varsity football coach. “We’re kind of right in the middle of the road right now. We’ve got to figure out our identity in the first few weeks and then roll on after that.”
Senior Tim Trumble, a returning starter at offensive guard and defensive end, added: “We have new faces in a lot of different places. We lost about 13 seniors last year, so it’s nice to see a lot of new kids ready to get out there and work. … I’m excited that we’re able to give off the team to such a great group of young kids, and hopefully give them a championship to start off their varsity careers.”
The returning varsity veterans, along with Stanard, noted minimal differences between traditional 11-man football and the eight-man format after meeting to discuss the program’s transition at the end of last season.
APW opted to shift to eight-man at the conclusion of the 2017 campaign due to low participation numbers, finishing that year with four players above the state-required minimum of 16. The Rebels opened last season with a 19-player roster and suited 23 players at a recent preseason practice.
Players who experienced the eight-man adjustment last season said that other than some schematic changes on defense — zone coverage is essentially nonexistent, for example — the new format didn’t feel much different from the 11-man version they played prior to last season. The starkest contrast observed by varsity veterans is that mistakes were magnified in the open field with more room for opposing players to roam.
“There’s a lot of running involved and it’s fast,” said Will Corcoran, a junior linebacker/running back entering his third varsity season. “You have to be comfortable with spreading things out. It’s a one-on-one game and you really have to be mentally and physically tough to play the eight-man game.”
Charles Stanard added: “You have to stay with your key because if you don’t, it’s gone for a touchdown. You have to really be disciplined.”
APW — which will host Sherburne-Earlville in its home opener at 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 27 — will play in a division that also consists of Pulaski, South Lewis, Cooperstown, and Sherburne-Earlville. Weedsport will compete in the Eight-Man Class D Division along with Bishop Grimes, Morrisville-Eaton, New York Mills, and West Canada Valley.
The Section 3 Eight-Man playoffs are scheduled to begin on Oct. 26.