Shenendehowa football licking its chops ahead of visit to Carrier Dome

Head coach Brian Clawson, left, talks with Griffin Wallner and Eric Morris (12) during the Shenendehowa football team's Chris Stewart Green and White intrasquad scrimmage in Clifton Park on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)Head coach Brian Clawson, left, talks with Griffin Wallner and Eric Morris (12) during the Shenendehowa football team's Chris Stewart Green and White intrasquad scrimmage in Clifton Park on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)

BY MICHAEL KELLY
Gazette Sportswriter

CLIFTON PARK — With an intrasquad scrimmage and an exhibition meeting with Union-Endicott out of the way, there’s nothing left for the Shenendehowa football team to do except turn its full attention to its Week 1 game.

Of course, Saturday’s game will be played against Canisius, which ended last season ranked No. 1 in the state, and it will take place at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. So, it is safe to say that most of the Plainsmen feel the way senior Carl Fiore did at the close of the second week of the team’s training camp.

“We can’t wait to play,” said Fiore. “I wish it was tomorrow.”

Now, the wait is nearly over for Shenendehowa, last year’s Section II Class AA champion, which will participate in the Kickoff Classic against another one of the state’s powerhouse programs to start its season.

Vinny Gramuglia is shown during warmups before the Shenendehowa football team's Chris Stewart Green and White intrasquad scrimmage in Clifton Park on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)

Vinny Gramuglia is shown during warmups before the Shenendehowa football team’s Chris Stewart Green and White intrasquad scrimmage in Clifton Park on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)

Shenendehowa has known it was going to the Carrier Dome since this past spring, but the mystique of what’s first this season has still not worn off. Speaking after Shenendehowa’s Aug. 26 Chris Stewart Green and White Game, an intrasquad scrimmage, senior quarterback Eric Morris said it still seems unreal to the squad that it will get the chance to start the season on the turf where the state championship games are played.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Morris said. “I don’t think it will until we get on the bus to go, but we’re ecstatic. It’s been motivation in practice every day for us.”

The Plainsmen’s most important practice day came in the form of their intrasquad scrimmage, an annual event now named to honor the memory of Stewart. At the scrimmage, Shenendehowa’s players competed against one another in 90 minutes of action that saw 80 plays run.

Morris and junior quarterback Mike Spulnick split duties at quarterback, with Morris passing the ball well and Spulnick using his legs to create success; the squad’s first-team offensive and defensive lines were sharp; and, Shenendehowa’s running backs found open space with gusto.

“Coach said this was the smoothest this (scrimmage) has gone in his four years doing it,” Morris said.

Tyler McFarland prepares for a long snap during warmups before the Shenendehowa football team's Chris Stewart Green and White intrasquad scrimmage in Clifton Park on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)

Tyler McFarland prepares for a long snap during warmups before the Shenendehowa football team’s Chris Stewart Green and White intrasquad scrimmage in Clifton Park on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)

While Clawson saw what was expected from senior stars such as lineman Luke Mysliwy and defensive lineman/tight end Michael Gillooley, the coach singled out junior running back John Cady, junior defensive back Chris Penman, and sophomore running back Griffin Wallner — who went untouched 60 yards for a touchdown in the first half — as players who surprised a bit with how well they played in the scrimmage.

“Those are the easy ones to point out,” Clawson said.

Both Shenendehowa and its Week 1 opponent Canisius will be relying on many first-year starters and rookie varsity players to contribute in major ways this season. Rich Robbins, who coaches Canisius and is from Clifton Park, said that the team he had last year that finished No. 1 in the state is much different from this year’s crew.

“It’s a young group, experience-wise,” Robbins said. “When we take the field against Shen, 19 guys will be starting their first varsity game.”

While the Plainsmen have also had to use their training camp to fight it out for many starting positions, Fiore said the squad will feel comfortable going into Week 1 regardless of how its lineup shakes out.

“We’re ready,” Fiore said.

About the Author

Michael Kelly
Michael Kelly is a sports reporter for Your Clifton Park and Your Niskayuna, weekly print publications of The Daily Gazette. Kelly grew up in Clifton Park and graduated from Shenendehowa High School in 2006. He is also a 2010 graduate of the Stony Brook University School of Journalism. Kelly's work has been honored by the New York News Publishers Association, the New York State Associated Press Association, and the Associated Press Sports Editors. His work has previously been featured in The (Amsterdam) Recorder, The Saratogian, and Albany Times Union.