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TONIGHT: RFA entertains New Hartford to open high school football season

Steve Jones
Sports writer
email / twitter
Posted 9/2/22

A non-league game between Class AA Rome Free Academy and Class A New Hartford at 6:30 tonight at RFA Stadium highlights a number of games this weekend as the local high school football season begins. …

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TONIGHT: RFA entertains New Hartford to open high school football season

Posted

A non-league game between Class AA Rome Free Academy and Class A New Hartford at 6:30 tonight at RFA Stadium highlights a number of games this weekend as the local high school football season begins.

The Spartans have moved back up to Class A after they got all the way to the Section III Class B title game last fall in a season where they went 9-1 under head coach Jim Kramer.

One major source of offense for New Hartford is running back Alex Collver, who was second team all-state last season, amassing 1,840 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior. Junior Cole Raux (nine rushing touchdowns) also returns in the backfield.

Returning starting quarterback Dominic Ambrose, now a senior, threw for 485 yards and six touchdowns last year while also running in three TDs.

The Spartans’ defense has two junior linebackers returning to their starting roles. Tommy Vitagliano had 51 tackles last season and Logan Banek had 47.

Last season RFA was 2-6 but got a taste of the playoffs for the first time under head coach Jake DerCola in his fourth season at the helm.

Though the team lost its two top running backs to graduation, junior quarterback Evan Carlson-Stephenson is back for a second season as the starter. Last season he was 78-for-142 passing for 913 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. The lone returning receiver with double digit catches, 100 or more yards or any TDs is senior Jack Lawless. He had 11 catches for 161 yards and two TDs last year.

The Black Knights’ defense will have to make improvements to stop the potent Spartans’ offense, which averaged just shy of 40 points a game last season. RFA’s defense was last in the eight-team league last season with 361 points allowed — an average of 45 per game.

Rivarly renewed

The rivalry game between Oneida and Vernon-Verona-Sherrill is back on the schedule despite VVS dropping down from Class B to Class C. The Red Devils will hit the road to play at 7 tonight. One big storyline is the head coaching matchup of VVS veteran Gary Oliver and Oneida first-year coach Matt McCoy, who played for Oliver at VVS.

VVS won the mid-season game between the two programs last season, 45-13. This will be the 72rd meeting of the annual matchup, which started in 1951 and has been played continuously every year since, with one exception. Twenty-nine of the 72 games have been separated by one score or less, with the average score being 16-16. VVS holds the all-time record of 34-33-4.

Last year, VVS was 5-4.

The Devils’ offense has to replace a number of starters, including virtually every skill position player. So VVS will ask a lot of senior running back James Wheeler IV in his fourth year of varsity. Last fall he ran for almost 1,350 yards rushing and scored 18 times.

Junior Charlie Foster, who is new to varsity, will get his first start quarterback.

Oneida was 3-5 last season.

Quarterback Bryson Carinci returns after starting last season as a sophomore. Senior Tommy Lacy — new to varsity — will be an option as both a passing quarterback and a receiver himself.

The run game will be a mix of juniors Gavin Sweet and Pierce Relyea, a one-two punch that will allow both to stay fresh while also being key contributors on defense.

The annual football game between the area rivals will now be called the Hood Rivalry Bowl. With manufacturing facilities in both Oneida and Vernon, Hood is sponsoring the game for the first time in the rivalry’s 71-year history.

Elsewhere in Section III

Here are the other local Section III high school football games on the schedule this weekend:

Friday

  • Whitesboro hosts West Genesee at 6:30 p.m.
  • Central Valley Academy hosts Fonda-Fultonville at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday

  • Westmoreland/Oriskany hosts Clinton at 1 p.m.
  • Holland Patent hosts Herkimer at 6 p.m.

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