OWEGO, NY – While each year brings turnover in high school sports, some deplete teams quicker than others.
For the Owego football team, they’re experiencing that this season.
After graduating a large senior class this spring, the Indians are looking rebuild and reload quickly.
The fall 2021 Owego Indians are an example of the challenges of competing and coaching at the high school level.
Owego has been right in the mix for a Class B section championship over the last half decade, posting 6 win season in 3 of their last 5, while making it to the section semifinals the last 2 years.
However, the majority of those players are now gone.
After playing a shorter season than most last spring, head coach Steve Virkler is optimistic his team can continue to ride the momentum from the bried lay off.
“We do a lot of work in the offseason, in the spring and in the summer. So, it was almost like a spring practice for some of these younger guys to get out here and practice. Then, roll right into it in the summer, and then pick up here in August. So, hopefully that carries over, you know. We were only able to get 4 games in last spring. But, we hope that things carry over from that,” says Virkler.
Even with playing a handful of games, many of those on the field were seniors at many key positions. Now, those roles are being filled by kids who perhaps didn’t see the field last year.
However, coach Virkler still sees value in those players being on the team despite the lack of game time last spring.
“Some of them got playing time, but some didn’t. But, the biggest thing was practice. The different levels you go and the intensity of practice, and the faster pace it goes from modified to JV to varsity to then the college level, Division 3 to Division I level. So, I think the biggest thing is probably during the week in practice, and the intensity of that and how fast things go. So, hopefully those guys learned that last spring, and are ready to go this year,” says Virkler.
It’s easy to see why, from a coaching perspective, practice would be important for younger players who are making the transition to varsity.
For the players themselves, it can be an intimidating experience.
However, in the eyes of seniors Matt Gatto and Teagan Signs, everyone is showing up to practice ready to compete at a high level.
“I mean, obviously, there’s a feeling of intensity that we need. We have a lot of small guys. We’ve got a small team this year. Again, we lost a lot of guys in that class. So, we got a lot of guys, but there’s been an attitude of hard working. The guys that are here are willing to work, and do what they need to do to have the outcome we want this year” says Gatto.
“A lot of guys have stepped up. I mean, they have to. We don’t have many guys to play. So, a lot of the young kids have been just out battling their positions, and trying to play,” says Signs.
If the team is able to come together and get everyone on the same page, the seniors already know the outcome they want to achieve.
“Obivously, we’d like a winning record. We’d like to see those playoffs. We’d like that sectional championship. Just like anybody would,” says Gatto.
“We just want to win. We want to have sectional championships. We want to win every game,” says Signs.