CLINTONVILLE — When AuSable Valley football coach Heith Ford took a look at this year’s team at its first practice, he saw plenty of new faces.
Gone are 22 of 30 players off last year’s squad.
In fact, out of a 25-player roster this season, the Patriots have nine seniors, 12 juniors and four sophomores.
“Definitely, we have a lot of new faces,” said Ford. “That’s why our scrimmages and practices are so important to get an idea of who can play where. We’re young, but I’m happy so far.
“Absolutely, we still have some varsity inexperience to overcome and some of the kids aren’t battle tested on a varsity level. Playing against your teammates in practice is one thing. Playing in a game against an opponent is something else. Plus, the kids are learning a new system.”
The Patriots, who open their season by hosting Saranac tonight, are coming off a 3-6 season that included two wins over Ogdensburg Free Academy — one of them a thrilling 17-14 victory in the Class C semifinals. In the third week of the season, the Patriots stunned the Blue Devils, 28-12.
“We had some close games last year, and the kids did a nice job,” said Ford. “The two wins over Ogdensburg were big ones for us. It gave us some momentum heading into this season.
“We have to build on the things we do well and not make the little mistakes that will hurt us.”
Ford isn’t setting major goals for such a young team.
“Our goal is to put series together,” he said. “By being able to do so, that will lead to touchdowns. We don’t want to depend on the big play, and we’re definitely going to be a physical, not finesse team.”
Ford has to replace the graduated Austin House at quarterback but feels he has the player to do so in senior Kodie Simpson.
“House is going to be tough to replace,” said Ford. “But Kodie’s a good athlete and, even though he was a receiver most of the time last year, he did play some quarterback for us.”
Another key player for the Patriots will be junior back Dillon Savage, who led AuSable Valley last year with 443 rushing yards.
“Dillon’s going to be a leader for us,” said Ford.
Senior Evan Cobb is another player Ford is counting on and will be a key receiver, along with senior Garth Benway, a 6-foot-4, 281-pound tight end with soft hands.
The Patriots will have strength on the lines with three-year varsity performers Kyle Coolidge, Elijah Fitzgerald and Michael Thompson back for their senior seasons. Thompson will be a linebacker on defense but has been moved to fullback on offense.
“We have experience on the line, and I’m optimistic there,” said Ford.
Sophomore Ken Rivers, junior transfer Matt Nasner and sophomore Rick Nichols will also be in the mix on the line.
Players like Thompson, Savage, Cobb and Fitzgerald will start on both sides of the ball.
“We will have players going both ways, but I’d like to have them playing time-and-a-half, if you know what I mean. I would prefer our quarterback not to play on defense if we can help it.
“We do, however, need to stay away from injuries.”
AuSable Valley Coach: Heath Ford No. Name Position Year 1 Ridge Perkett WR/DB 12 2 Charles Wilkinson WR/DB 12 5 Zachary Crowningshield WR/DB 11 6 Roger Preston WR/DB 11 8 Sultan Sikander WR/DB 10 10 Kodie Simpson QB-DB 12 11 Gavin Friedrich WR/LB 11 22 Evan Cobb WR/DB 12 23 Garth Benway TE/DE 12 28 Jonathan Luxon TE/DE 12 34 Jeremy Owen RB/LB 12 44 Dillon Savage RB/LB 11 50 Michael Thompson RB/LB 12 52 Kyle Coolidge OL/LB 11 54 Reilly Peck OL/DL 11 55 Nicholas Davis OL/DL 11 56 Jimmy Provost OL/LB 11 58 Cody Lawrence OL/DL 11 60 Collin Fuller OL/DL 12 64 Elijah Fitzgerald OL/DE 1 2 65 Brandon Nolan OL/LB 11 66 Matt Nasner OL/LB 11 68 Rick Nichols OL/DL 10 69 Michael Bombard OL/DL 11 76 Ken Rivers OL/DL 10