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Section II football practice starts on a sunny Sunday in March

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Xavier Leigh walked onto the lawn at Troy High on Sunday morning in preparation for his fifth varsity football season.

Leigh, a declining star, would of course always enjoy one last campaign with the Flying Horses. Under these circumstances, Leigh couldn’t be more pleased with a final lap.

“It feels good to be back, not knowing if we’ll have a season,” said Leigh.

Normally, the first day of varsity football practice takes place in August, with temperatures in the 70s, 80s or 90s. Instead, the coronavirus pandemic helped delay the 2020 season and ultimately created a scenario for Fall Season II that is set in a seven-week season without any playoffs from the state.

Sunday’s workout started with temperatures in the mid-20s.

“I would say it went really well,” said Troy coach Bobby Burns. ‘It was good to be out there. The sun was shining and there was work to be done. ‘

Troy, winners of the 2016 and 2017 Class AA state championships when Leigh played on defense alone, will seek a Section II Class A title. The Flying Horses finished their 2019 season 8-2 overall after dropping a 17-13 decision against Queensbury in the Super Bowl.

Shaker is another team with championship ambitions in 2019 that fell short of their goal. The Blue Bison went 8-1 and was upset by Guilderland in the semi-finals of class AA. Shaker coach Greg Sheeler put his squad through a three-hour practice session in the afternoon.

“It’s just been a long and strange low season,” Sheeler said. “To finally get onto the field and see how the senior class was drawing out stretch lines and being at the forefront of the exercises was a very grateful feeling. The senior class is really special to me because I had them for so long. The first year I was the head coach. (in 2010), they were in first grade. Many of them came to my camp. Seeing them mature as athletes and leaders in our district was very special to me today. “

The preseason usually includes three weeks of practice with a scrimmage at the end of the second week. This season, teams have less than two weeks to prepare for the start of the game. Troy plays in La Salle and Shaker travels to record Shenendehowa, both on March 19.

Shenendehowa (Class AA), Queensbury (Class A), Schuylerville (Class B), Stillwater (Class C) and Warrenburg (Class D) captured 2019 Section II championships. This season, Class AA will compete in four regular season games and then advance to the playoffs / crossovers in weeks 5, 6 and 7. Class A will lead a five-week season, followed by playoffs in weeks 6 and 7 .

“Just the fact that we play means a lot to all seniors,” said Leigh. “The playoffs and the state championship are extra. Every year the main goal is to win the section. As long as we can do that, I’m grateful.”

Leigh, an offensive roster of the Times Union Large School’s first team after rushing for 1,309 yards and 23 touchdowns as junior, senior standout Xavier Ward and senior quarterback Alex Wolfe, launch an attack that should bring in big marks again. Troy has eight starters back on both offense and defense. Burns says Wolfe, a third-year starter, will be counted on to produce his best season in a Troy uniform.

“The expectations for him this season are really high. They are,” said Burns. “I’m going to put a lot on his plate because he has a lot of experience. He’s done a lot of things, but he hasn’t reached the peak of what he wants.”

Sheeler, who has led the Blue Bison to their only two section titles, is delighted to see the most unique football season in Section II history conclude with championship matches.

“It’s always good to have a peak,” said Sheeler. “The one thing we always talk about in our program is getting better every day and eventually doing our best. With these kids this season is a kind of microcosm of what we’ve been through. Hopefully they are at their best. at the end of the football season and at their best academically and in our school community at the end of the school year. “

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