Eight-man veterans aim higher

Tupper Lake tangles with state power Ogdensburg Free Academy during a game in 2015. The Lumberjacks are in their second season in eight-man football and are adjusting well along with other local teams like South Lewis and Altmar-Parish-Williamstown. Watertown Daily Times

TURIN — In year three as an eight-man football team, South Lewis has found some stability.

They field 22 players on varsity, a similar amount to last season, and have a little bit more than 30 on modified.

Varsity coach Mike Absolom hoped last season would feature a playoff game at the Carrier Dome but the Falcons came up one game short.

With practice having started last Friday and the first game of the season occurring on Sept. 21, he has set the same expectations for his team.

“Our expectations are to make playoffs again, and we don’t just want to make the playoffs, we want to make noise in the playoffs and ultimately reach the Dome,” Absolom said. “We have a lot of guys who have been with the program and eight-man for three years now, this is their third year. So, a lot of game experience under our belt.”

The Falcons benefit from Brady Vosburgh returning for his senior season as quarterback. They will also have Branton Carpenter back at running back and linebacker, Gage Marlof, Maison Platt and Andrew Duran, all three of whom play on the offensive and defensive line.

Opening night for Falcons is an away game against New York Mills, a team South Lewis beat handedly last season, 60-30. Playing in the league with mostly the same opponents has helped create rivalries that previously did not exist.

“It’s nice to see the same teams over and over again,” Absolom said. “I’d like to get those rivalries and every team is growing and improving each year so we teach as a coaching staff that you can’t overlook any team on any given Friday or Saturday.”

South Lewis is 9-5 in the past two seasons in the Eight-Man League and that success has driven interest at younger levels, made evident by the 30-plus player roster for modified.

“I attribute that to the eight-man success that we’ve had,” Absolom said. “How kids see that they can be successful in eight-man football.”

Modified’s growing is just as valuable as varsity numbers stabilizing.

“Before eight-man came around, we struggled to graduate players and replace them with quality athletes,” Absolom said. “It seemed that we would always have good athletes and when they would graduate we just couldn’t find the guys to replace them. Where now with eight-man that contributes to modified’s growing in numbers.”

TUPPER LAKE IN YEAR TWO

In 2017, a winless Tupper Lake football team had to forgo a couple of Norethern Athletic Conference contests due to injuries, which left the Lumberjacks with fewer than the allowed minimum number of players to compete in a traditional 11-man football game. So, instead of Tupper Lake dropping its football program completely, the school opted to leave the traditional 11-man game and begin a new era in 8-man football.

The Lumberjacks earned two wins in their inaugural six-game season for 8-man football, a result that leaves plenty of hope for head coach Dennis Klossner for this season.

“We were very competitive last season and hope to continue improving,” Klossner said. “We are very excited about our upcoming season.

“We have five seniors and two returning juniors to lead the team this year.”

The veteran football coach listed key returning players as running back Skyler Pickering, defensive back and wideout Kodee Hill, outside linebacker Josh Smith, tight end Haedyn Farnsworth and offensive lineman Dawson Walton, along with juniors Jay Gagnon (center) and Bryce Dattoma (D-back).

“We are a young team, but we expect a lot from them. They are very coachable, enthusiastic and we have more depth this year than we have had in a long time,” Klossner said. “We are building our team around the line and we have 10 kids fighting for a spot on the offensive and defensive lines.

“Tupper Lake will represent Section 10 in the Eight-Man League and we will do them proud, as I am proud of our team and coaching staff,” he added. “We have lots of expectations for each player, and as a team.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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