SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — There’s nothing like the adrenaline rush of a season opener in football. That is not to say that soccer, volleyball, tennis, or cross-country competitors feel the excitement any less than those that battle on the gridiron. It’s just that in the current sports landscape, despite the dramatic upsurge in interest in soccer, football still draws more attention, bigger crowds and banner headlines than fútbol. Over the course of this fall, all of the sports will get their fair share of attention here. When it comes to high school kids giving their all, the sport, or for that matter, the ultimate outcome, matters far less than what young athletes gain in terms of self esteem and life lessons.
In week one of the Section Nine football season, teams aspire to evince a fast start. Usually opening week brings mixed results, but this time out Liberty emerged as the only local winner. The Indians were 6-4 (3-1 Class C) last year and lost in the Section Nine championship game to O’Neill. Liberty dominated Eldred 34-6 in a non-league tilt to spoil the Yellow Jackets’ home opener, all of the other locals including Sullivan West, Tri-Valley, Monticello and Roscoe/Manor/Downsville exited with 0-1 records.
In Friday night action, Sullivan West, which finished at 6-3 (3-1 Class C) last year losing to O’Neill in the semifinals, hosted foe John S. Burke Catholic in a non-league Class C tilt. The two teams did not play last season, but the year prior they engaged in back-to-back frays in a week eight win and a Class C semifinal playoff game, both of which were won by the Eagles. Burke, which finished at 5-5 (3-1 Class C) last year, was frustrated by being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention last fall. But after an arduous off-season involving much weight training, the team, which lost only three seniors to graduation, quickly showed why it may well be the team to beat in Class C this year. For most games the devil is in the details, but when you’re talking about a 46-6 outcome, there is little to say. The Westies were victimized by a Burke offense that marshaled 391 yards including 328 on the ground. Bulldog senior quarterback Richard Shevak ran for 62 yards on 18 carries and was four-for-ten, passing for 38 yards. Junior Andrew Stabbert had 50 yards on 12 carries and led the team with 13 tackles. The Bulldogs have a bye week coming up before traveling to Eldred on September 20.
Hancock/Deposit won the battle of merged teams as it bested Roscoe/Manor/Downsville 42-28. Manor has only junior varsity football this year so its elder statesmen joined the Roscoe/Downsville contingent, which was 1-6 a year ago. Tri-Valley, which was 4-5 (2-2 Class C) a year ago, lost its season opener in a non-league Class C fray with Onteora by the score of 36-15. Logan McKeon recovered a fumble and ran it back for 80 yards for one of the Bears’ scores. Justin Swarthout ran for 145 yards on 17 carries. The Bears host Chester in Grahamsville on September 14.
In the last of the local games, Monticello, which was 2-7 (1-4 Class A) last year, fell to New Paltz by the score of 27-7. The Panthers closed a half time gap of 14-0 to within one score as Terry Duncan scored via an 11-yard pass from quarterback Jonathan Harned, but the Huguenots responded with two touchdowns from standout Khariff LaBoy. This week Monticello hosts Cornwall and Liberty hosts James I. O’Neill on September 12, while Roscoe/Downsville Manor hosts Eldred on September 13. Tri-Valley will host Chester on September 14. For photos from the Sullivan West/Burke game as well as those from Monticello/New Paltz, visit www.sportsinsights.smugmug.com .