After many months of waiting, Friday night lights switch on for the first high school football games of the season this week, kicking off Sept. 6 across all of Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Oswego counties.
Divisional realignments and one team jumping to a new section gives the local high school football scene a new look this year.
A potential Class powerhouse, Lowville, will kick off the NNY Game of Week with a home game versus Class C opponent Jordan Elbridge at 7 p.m. Sept. 6.
SECTION 3 AREA SCHOOLS
Class A has a new look this season, shrinking from 10 total teams down to six. The remaining schools — Carthage, Indian River, Whitesboro, Auburn, Central Square and East Syracuse-Minoa — will play in one division.
Both Carthage and Indian River begin their season at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, Sept. 7 against a pair of non-league opponents: Maine-Endwell and Norwich, respectively.
With a new head coach, Carthage comes back just as strong as last season while the defending Section 3 champion Warriors will be introducing a lot of young players into their system.
The Warriors still have a good chance as repeating as section champions. They return key starters, including Tanner Colvard, Garret Decker and Guillermo Rosario-Acosta. However, they lost 2018 Times All-North football MVP Kwazsi Gaddis to graduation.
For the first time in a couple years there will be an area team in Class B. After going 8-1 in the Developmental League last season, South Jefferson will return to Class B team this season. They will also be playing their home games on a new turf field at the high school.
Lowville and General Brown remain in Class C but in separate divisions. That won’t heavily affect their rivalry, the Lions and Red Raiders will play each other on Sept. 13 in Dexter. Lowville has the upper hand this year with General Brown having lost a lot of key seniors and the Red Raiders returning some of their best players. Quarterback Chad Bach was named the Times player of year last school year and will man quarterback for Lowville in his senior season.
The Thousand Islands Vikings will play their 2019 season as a member of Class D. After a subpar year last season, they return only a few starters and will have roughly 20 kids on the roster. Coach Ryan Kendall was able to add four players who previously played soccer the year before. Playing alongside the Vikings in the single division class is Sandy Creek and Beaver River. The Beavers were a game away from the Class D section finals last year and are poised to make a similar run.
SECTION 3 OSWEGO COUNTY TEAMS
Central Square will look to build off a strong finish to Kevin Kalfass’ first season as head coach in 2018 when the Redhawks won their last two regular-season games — brushing off an 0-5 start — to reach the Section 3 Class A playoffs. Kalfass will bring back emerging junior running back Jake Moran, the senior duo of Cruz Springer and Alex Wurster, and first-year starting QB Brady Godici as they look to guide Central Square into contention in the six-team slugfest that will comprise Section 3 Class A.
Mexico snapped a four-year streak of Class B playoff appearances last season while finishing 0-7 with a young and undermanned squad. The Tigers will again play with a small backs in Section 10 in Peyton Schmitt.
Gouverneur, however, lost a lot of its individual offensive talent from last year. The key returnee for the Wildcats will be quarterback Caleb Farr.
OFA endured injury issues last year and relied on four different quarterbacks. That didn’t halt the Blue Devils, however, as OFA suffered just one regular-season loss, to Gouverneur, and wound up reaching the state Class C semifinals.
The Blue Devils lost most of their starters from a defense that gave up just 66 points in the regular season, but return all four athletes who played quarterback.
The NAC sees the return of Watertown High School to the league this fall. The Cyclones were in the NAC from 1986-2000 and went 97-28 in that era. Watertown may not be the same team it was when it was in the NAC. The Cyclones have not had a winning season since 2011, compiling a 12-44 record in that stretch.
Canton was the third-best team in the NAC last year, going 4-2, but the Golden Bears have a different team this fall. Canton lost a stellar senior class that included Declan Porter, who was the best quarterback in the league.
Malone was 3-3 a year ago, despite being outscored 92-134. The Huskies reached the Class B championship game but fell 2-0 to Potsdam.
Potsdam improved as the season went on and finished 2-4 with a young core of players.
St. Lawrence Central won just one game a year ago, but the Larries return many players from a young team and received a boost when the school added a new artificial turf field with lights.
Massena has gone winless on the field the last two years. The Red Raiders picked up a pair of forfeit wins over Tupper Lake in 2017. Massena had a young team as well last year but does return standout running back Chris Paige.
Times sportswriters Cap Carey, Philip Sanzo and Josh St.Croix contributed to this report.