With the high school football season five months away, Section 3 released its 2020 schedule for all teams in Class AA, A, B, C, D, Eight-man and the Independent League, formerly known as the Developmental League.
Area schools remain in their same class designations as last season with Indian River and Carthage both participating in Class A, South Jefferson participating in Class B, Lowville and General Brown participating in Class C, Beaver River, Thousand Islands and Sandy Creek participating in Class D and South Lewis participating in Eight-man. Watertown will once again compete as a Class A school in Section 10.
The seven-game season will begin for most teams on Friday, Sept. 11, with the quarterfinal round of sectionals set to begin Oct. 30.
With the state expected to make a decision next month that would allow teams to schedule an optional extra regular-season game, some teams in Section 3 have already added a meaningful, non-scrimmage game to their schedule, bringing their regular-season total to eight games.
The only local team to do so is Thousand Islands, which scheduled a home game against St. Lawrence Central for Sept. 4, (a weekend usually reserved for preseason scrimmages).
“With such a small roster we end up playing more kids the whole time,” Thousand Islands coach Ryan Kendall said. “My thought process was, and I talked to my coaching staff, if the kids are going to play every snap of a scrimmage, why not just make it a game and make the atmosphere more competitive.”
St. Lawrence Central and Thousand Islands have met in the past and matches up competitively with the Vikings. Plus, the Section 10 Larries were also looking to add a game to its schedule.
Class D will consist of 11 teams and two divisions. Along with Thousand Islands, Beaver River and Sandy Creek will play in the Class D North-West Division joined by Cato-Meridian and Onondaga.
One of the biggest class alignment changes comes between Class AA and Class A. After having only six Class A teams last season, Section 3 now has 10 teams split into two divisions of five each.
Indian River and Carthage will not share a division in 2020, but they will play each other Oct. 9 in Philadelphia. While Indian River and Carthage won’t be competing for the same division title, the outcome of their game can serve as a significant tiebreaker for the winning team come the end of the regular season.
Neither Carthage nor Indian River will be playing opponents outside of Section 3 Class A unlike last season when every Class A team began its season with three nonleague games.
Carthage, the defending sectional champion and Class A state runner-up, will open its season on the road against East Syracuse-Minoa on Sept. 11. The Comets’ first home game will be in week three when they host Whitesboro on Sept. 25. Coach Jason Coffman prefers the all Class A schedule to last year’s nonleague-filled schedule.
“Any time we can stay within our class it’s certainly a benefit,” he said. “With 10 teams we’re back to the eight-team playoff where last year it was only four teams. I’m a big fan of the eight-team playoffs.”
Instead of scheduling an extra game to start the season, Carthage — which will be much younger this upcoming season — will use week 0 to scrimmage Lowville. Coffman likes to use the scrimmage as a final evaluation of his players before finalizing his depth chart.
“After two weeks of practice, I want to be able to go out onto the field, I want to be able to control the scrimmage, I want to be able to play everybody, I want to be able to work on what we need to do to get better. And talking to my brother (Lowville coach Josh Coffman), we both agree, we can get together, work on what we need to work on and get out of there.”
Indian River, which currently doesn’t have any game scheduled for Sept. 4, will begin its season against Central Square on the road and will have its home opener in week 2 against East Syracuse-Minoa.
Christian Brothers Academy and Fayetteville-Manlius dropped down from Class AA and will participate in Class A this season, while Fulton and Jamesville-DeWitt have moved back to Class A after a stint in the Developmental League.
South Jefferson, which finished 5-3 in 2019 in its first year back in Class B, will be in a division with Cortland, Homer, Marcellus, Syracuse Tech and Westhill and begin its season at home versus J-D. Solvay, last year’s Section 3 Class B champion, has moved down to Class C.
While Solvay is entering Class C, it will not be participating in the same division as Lowville and General Brown. The defending sectional champion Red Raiders and the Lions will begin the season against each other at Dexter. With 16 squads in Class C, the class is split up into two, eight-team divisions. Both Lowville and General Brown are currently scheduled to play only the teams in their division.
Unlike in past years, week one for Eight-man will take place at the same time as every other class in Section 3 on Sept. 11. South Lewis, the only area school participating in the Eight-man, will play an eight-team slate, beginning at Tupper Lake.