By Mike Zummo
Last season was a struggle for area football teams.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused last season to be postponed and pushed to a March/April season.
This season also brought some changes to the landscape as well.
The Wallkill Panthers have moved to Division 2 of Class A. Valley Central and Washingtonville have moved down. Warwick has moved up.
The Panthers will share a division with Goshen, Beacon, and Saugerties. The Vikings will compete with FDR, Minisink Valley, Washingtonville, and Cornwall in Class A Division 1.
Class A will start a week earlier than the other divisions and play in Week 0, as the Class A playoffs will feature two rounds – the semifinals and the Week 10 championship game.
Class AA is now home to one division, with the Bushmen vying against Kingston, Middletown, Newburgh Free Academy, Monroe-Woodbury, and Warwick for the Class AA title.
But that leaves each of the three football teams in the area, looking to improve on subpar records from the springtime Fall 2 season.
“We were competitive in every game last spring under very difficult circumstances, and the young players have been very successful on the JV level,” Wallkill coach Brian Vegliando said. “We’re very talented with a good mix of experience and youth, and our numbers are up.”
The Wallkill Panthers suffered some key losses, but return quarterback Mat Shea, who threw for nearly 1,000 yards in five games, throwing 10 touchdown passes, but was intercepted five times.
His favorite receiver was Ty Crowley, who caught 33 passes and four touchdowns. Shea also connected with Jack Rauschenbach for four more touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the football, the Panthers will return Chase Hermance, who had 10 total tackles as a linebacker and one sack. In the defensive backfield, Kyle Krebs returns as a strong cover corner. He had 12 total tackles and broke up two passes last spring.
The Panthers’ strongest defensive player was Kaden Campbell, an outside linebacker and safety. He finished with 21 total tackles, 11 solo, with a sack and two tackles for loss.
Vegliando said he also expects Gabe Crespi and Collin McCartney to contribute on both sides of the football, along with WR/DB Riche Martinez and Mason Ondreyko.
“Both of them saw considerable time in the last game of the spring vs. Valley Central,” Vegliando said.
Speaking of Valley Central, the two teams will face each other in their annual helmet game, although they don’t share a division in Class A.
The two teams will meet up on Oct. 15 in the annual helmet game.
The Vikings are looking to rebound from a 1-5 season in Class AA without Randy Rosario, their top receiving threat, center/defensive end Danny Laudati, and wide receiver/quarterback.
Bryce DeRonda returns as quarterback and Eli Bellinger will return in the backfields, both offensive and defensive.
“The team has fought through practice physically and mentally the past week with 2-a-days,” Valley Central coach Andrew LaVallie said. “We are looking to improve each and every practice by getting better individually and as a whole team. We are excited to have the opportunity to have a full season this fall.”
The Pine Bush Bushmen are looking to rebound from a difficult Fall 2 season, which saw them go winless and had a game against Newburgh Free Academy postponed due to COVID-19.
The Bushmen suffered some key losses, such as running back Gunnar Meland, Anthony Bressler and Joe Croce.
However, they hope to offset those losses with key returners, including Danny DeGroodt, Mason Miranowicz, Matt Boffalo, Patrick Pfiel, Stephen Gihr and Deven Greer.
Emanuel Hannon, Tyler Ostrom and Jared Urena also will join varsity.
However, the Bushmen are entering the 2021 season with a simple goal of making the Class AA playoffs and improving each week.