BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Through the first week of his team’s preseason, Shenendehowa football head coach Brian Clawson had no complaints.
“If I had to pick one word to describe the entire team, it’s ‘invested,’” Clawson said at his team’s Aug. 19 workout. “That was shown in the offseason and now in the preseason.”
The Plainsmen started their official preseason Aug. 15, not quite three weeks prior to their season-opening Sept. 2 game at Troy. Shenendehowa’s athletes, though, have been working for months together preparing for the 2016 season with weight-lifting sessions, team camps, 7-on-7 sessions and more.
“They’ve put a lot into making themselves better football players,” Clawson said. “I love their work ethic and their ability to focus. On the practice field, they’re intense. It’s a spirited group and they play with an energy.”
The Plainsmen finished last season 4-5 and with a 35-7 loss in the Section II Class AA semifinals to Saratoga Springs, which ended its season with a defeat in the state title game. Shenendehowa has few players returning with significant varsity playing experience, but has practiced this preseason like an experienced group.
“We knew had to pump it up and get the intensity high so we could get stuff done,” senior defensive back Jake Szwarcberg said. “When we had to turn it up, we knew how to do it.”
“I mean,” senior quarterback Mike Spulnick said, “we wanted to have our pads on and be hitting that first day. … Since last season ended, we’ve wanted to get back for this season.”
Besides trimming its roster a bit, Shenendehowa’s preseason is mainly about sorting out how its returning players will mesh with a junior class that’s coming off winning a junior varsity Super Bowl a year ago.
“Everyone has to get reps,” Szwarcberg said. “We’re trying to make everyone feel welcome here.”
While players such as senior defensive back Nick Michalowski, Spulnick, Szwarcberg, senior lineman Shane Walpole, and junior running back Griffin Wallner received plenty of playing time last season, Clawson said starting spots are not guaranteed for anyone.
“We don’t have a lot of returning starters, but that by no means is an excuse for how we should perform and execute,” Clawson said. “We’ve made great progress.”
The key is to continue making progress as season’s kickoff nears.
“We’ve got to come ready to play every day,” Spulnick said.