BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — When Luke Mysliwy heard from his buddy James Murray, a fellow junior lineman for the Shenendehowa football team, that the Plainsmen were headed to the Carrier Dome for their 2015 season opener, Mysliwy figured it was a late April Fools’ Day prank.
“I thought it had to be a joke,” said Mysliwy. “I was really shocked.”
“Everyone was like, ‘Yeah, that can’t be real. That can’t be true,’ ” junior defensive end/tight end Michael Gillooley agreed.
But it was no joke. The Plainsmen were recently offered the chance to jump into the Kickoff Classic to take on Catholic High School Athletic Association defending state champion Canisius in Week 1, and Shenendehowa head coach Brian Clawson said he quickly accepted the invite after his squad was originally left out of the event.
“We’ve always been under the philosophy that in order to reach our full potential, we have to play the best opponents out there,” said Clawson. “This year, the stars aligned right.”
Shenendehowa had been scheduled to open its season against La Salle Institute. Instead, LSI will take on Monroe-Woodbury — Canisius’ original opponent in the Kickoff Classic — and the Plainsmen will head to Syracuse on Sept. 5 to take on Canisius at 5 p.m.
Clawson said he and Canisius head coach Rich Robbins — a Clifton Park native — had tried in the past to put together a game between the two schools. The teams’ schedules, though, did not match up until Canisius was looking for a new opponent for its opener.
“To be able to play this game at the Carrier Dome is pretty amazing on top of everything,” said Clawson, whose team went 11-1 in 2014 and won a Section II Class AA championship.
Shenendehowa joins Amsterdam as the only Section II teams in this year’s Kickoff Classic field. In 2014, three Section II teams — Amsterdam, Fonda-Fultonville, and Hoosick Falls — played in the event, which shares a home with the site of the state football championship games.
“We’ve been working as hard as we can to get there for the last five years of our lives,” Mysliwy said of the Carrier Dome.
“This is a lifetime dream,” said Gillooley. “Every summer, it’s about working to get to go to the Carrier Dome.”
The opportunity for the Plainsmen to prove itself in Week 1 against one of the state’s top programs will provide the squad with an extra spark during the remainder of the offseason.
“We have to be ready for one of the biggest games of our lives,” said Mysliwy. “This gives us something extra to prepare for.”
While the Week 1 game’s result will not have any impact on seeding for sectionals, Clawson said he expects his players to be buzzing about their meeting with Canisius from now until Sept. 5.
“I can only imagine that it’s going to have a playoff feel,” Clawson said of the game.