Players, coaching staffs try to stay sharp

Lowville head coach Josh Coffman, shown last season, has his Red Raiders working out despite no fall season. Watertown Daily Times

New York state high school football is four and half months away, but coaches haven’t put their teams on the back burner.

Though interscholastic games are prohibited in the state, and guidelines that restrict a certain amount of contact are in place, local football coaches have used their newly found time to still host some workouts with their teams.

Team activity alone has proved to be the biggest benefit.

“That’s huge, just to get them around each other again and be able to do something in a structured environment,” Indian River football coach, Cory Marsell said. “The way we’re doing it, I think is the safest way you can do it.”

Indian River, like many schools, have offered intramurals for its students while interscholastic sports have been pushed back to the spring.

Football activities have included weight room work and conditioning on the field, the program concluded with more football related activities toward the end.

“One of the things that we’re doing is everyone for the most part is keeping their masks on, so our masks are on all the time — from there we’re doing a seven-on-seven type of ordeal,” Marsell said. “We’ll run some of our plays with the same person in front of you, those type of things. So, if we switch, the guy takes the hand shield with him and someone else comes in.”

It’s impossible for New York public schools to fully simulate a football game with restrictions in place. Tackling isn’t allowed and neither is any form of contact that isn’t incidental. Activity has been limited to skills training and some seven-on-seven.

Lowville, the reigning Section 3 Class C champion, gives players who are expected to transition into more of a starting role, reps at their positions. Despite less than ideal circumstances, coach Josh Coffman has been satisfied with how smoothly and productive the workouts have been.

“This past week we stopped it and now we’re going to gear it more toward half-hour sessions for conditioning and workout speed agility and strength work,” Coffman said. “I actually stopped it because it had been going so good I didn’t want it to drag. It’s not like in a regular season where you have three days of practice we’re going to put on shoulder pads, three more days we have full equipment then we’ll play a team in a scrimmage. We weren’t building toward anything and we were just so amazed as coaches at how motivated the kids were to work hard without that carrot sitting there in front of them.”

Coffman broke up his team up into positional groups and actually practice some plays.

“It’s the equivalent of what we would do on the first couple of days of practices,” Coffman said. “In the past we’ve done what we call ‘spring football.’ So that’s what we’ve compared it to. We do a couple of weeks of spring football at the end of lacrosse season, before regents exams start. We followed kind of the same pattern as what we’ve always done then.”

One of the biggest roster changes for the Red Raiders comes at quarterback. Three-year starter and last year’s Times All-North Co-MVP Chad Bach graduated, allowing his backup Aidan Macaulay to take over the starting job. Macaulay saw plenty of playing time at the position last year, albeit at the end of games that Lowville had built a substantial lead.

These practices have allowed Coffman and the rest of the Raiders to get used to any offensive changes that come with Macaulay under center.

In Class B, Randy Fuller has convened with South Jefferson. Fuller, a long-time defensive coordinator for the Spartans, took over as head coach in the spring. Having worked with former head coach Aaron Rivers for the past five seasons and having served as the school’s boys lacrosse coach, Fuller is familiar with the team’s players and culture. The most challenging part of this unprecedented fall has been dealing with the loss of excitement that comes every Friday night.

“For the past two Thursdays, the weather has been perfect, perfect football weather,” Fuller said. “The kids are like ‘coach, wouldn’t it be awesome if we could play a game right now,’ ya know? The emotional wellness of kids has been the biggest challenge. To help them deal with some stuff.”

The Spartans have been working out on their turf field at night, setting off that Friday Night vibe.

Aside from conditioning and overall team bonding, they’ve been able to make specific game improvements.

“The other night, I got wound up for a few minutes just teaching the kids kickoff stuff,” Fuller said. “We’re able to introduce some things now. We don’t have every single football player in school signed up, we have most of them, these kids will have a little bit of jump start for the spring season.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

Sports Writer

Beat writer for Section 3 high school football, Frontier League boys and girls basketball, Frontier League baseball and Frontier League softball.

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