Rome Free Academy football will get two more games this year, including five home games compared to three last year. Section III announced its football schedule for the fall today, with Rome kicking off its season at home at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 4, against Christian Brothers Academy.
CBA is one of two schools that will be in Class A next season after being in Class AA with RFA last year. The two teams did not play in 2019. RFA will then host rival Utica Proctor at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11.
“You have to bring your game week in and week out,” said RFA head coach Jake DerCola today of Class AA. He noted that RFA will play league favorites Cicero-North Syracuse and Liverpool late in the year, Oct. 23 on the road against C-NS and a week later at home against Liverpool to wrap up the regular season. That, he said, “could help us.”
The game against Proctor could look a lot different than last year’s 50-14 loss on the road, he said. “They had a huge senior class. Playing them second game they might still be figuring things out.”
The five games in the middle of the schedule for RFA are: Sept. 18 at Baldwinsville, Sept. 25 home against Henninger, Oct. 2 at Corcoran, Oct. 9 at Nottingham and Oct. 16 at home against West Genesee.
Last year RFA was 2-6 in DerCola’s second year at the controls.
There is, DerCola noted, “a good core group is coming back.” Of the 15 seniors who played last season, about half played significant time. A number of underclassmen earned significant playing time last year.
Offensively, RFA will return starting quarterback Evan DeLutis, running back Nevaeh Baez, receiver Alexander Wells and an offensive line that has three starters and another experienced player back. Dayton Kelly was impressive in the season-ending crossover game against Lockport last year after being called up from junior varsity, the coach noted. DerCola added that DeLutis, who took over at QB during last season, “has been working hard, training. He wants it.”
Defensively, the team will have to replace Brandon Laribee in the middle of the line, as the senior who plugged the middle last year is graduating this spring. Back are linebackers Ryan O’Connell and James McKeown, who helped anchor the defense last year.
“We’re excited about it, that we have a good nucleus coming back,” DerCola said. “Obviously it will be about how we train.”
And training is what has been complicated as student-athletes adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. Spring sports are in jeopardy and training for football starts early. “Kids are now on their own training,” said DerCola, who noted that he has been sending players home workouts. “The hard part is, we’ve had during the spring a chance to get together once or twice a week to work on football things.” The camps are not canceled yet, and, he added, “knock on wood, hopefully things will be under control.”
DerCola said having five home games this season is “a great thing.” The Black Knights get two home games to open the season then three more home games staggered throughout the remainder, with a home game to wrap up the regular seaon.
One noticeable alteration to the start of the season is the lack of a Kickoff Classic at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. There is major construction at the dome so the event will take a year off but is planned again for 2021, according to the event sponsor, the CNY Chapter of the National Football Foundation. DerCola said that while “It was a great experience for our guys,” the heat in the dome hit players hard and caused cramping throughout the game. He said it probably had an impact on the game, which RFA lost to Nottingham 20-7 despite scoring first.
Here are the schedules for other local teams:
• Adirondack. The Wildcats make their eight-man football debut this year, and will open at home against Weedsport on Sept. 10 before traveling to Morrisville. They host Cooperstown next then play road games against Bishop Grimes and West Canada Valley. They host Newfield and then South Lewis before the regular season ends with a road game against New York Mills.
• Camden. The Blue Devils will have seven regular season games. They start at Fulton on Sept. 11 then play at home against Westhill, at Central Valley Academy, home against Oneida then New Hartford and wrap up with road games at VVS and Chittenango.
• Canastota. The Red Raiders open at home Sept. 11 against Clinton before heading off to Bishop Ludden. They then host Skaneateles then play at Little Falls. They host Westmoreland then play at Solvay before ending the regular season home against Sherburne-Earlville.
• Clinton. The Warriors are on the road Sept. 4 and 11 against Sauquoit Valley and Canastota. Then they’re home against Sherburne-Earlville and Bishop Ludden. They travel to Skaneateles then come home to play Little Falls. They end the season with a trip to Westmoreland and then host Solvay.
• Holland Patent. The Golden Knights open the season Sept. 11 hosting Mount Markham then travel to Lowville. They host Jordan-Elbridge before road games against Hannibal and General Brown. They end the regular season with home games against Cazenovia and Southern Hills.
• Oneida. The Indians open Sept. 11 at Syracuse Tech, then get a home game against Marcellus before road games against VVS and Camden. They play Chittenango at home, head to CVA and wrap the regular season at home against New Hartford.
• South Lewis. The Falcons open their eight-man football season Sept. 11 at Tupper Lake, then stay on the road against Cooperstown and West Canada. They’re then home for three games in a row against Morrisville, Weedsport and New York Mills. They then play at Adirondack and head home to end the regular season against Trumansburg.
• Vernon-Verona-Sherrill. The Red Devils open Sept. 11 at Marcellus then have home games against Syracuse Tech and Oneida. They travel to Chittenango then host CVA. They play at New Hartford before ending the regular season at home against Camden.
• Oriskany-Westmoreland. The Bulldogs’s unified team opens the season at Skaneateles on Sept. 11 then home for Little Falls. They’ll be on the road against Sherburne-Earlville then home for Solvay. They travel to Canastota, head home to play Clinton then wrap the regular season at Bishop Ludden.
Section III has a few football teams in different places this coming season, as teams move to different classes.
In Class AA, where RFA plays, CBA and Fayetteville-Manlius are gone, headed down to Class A.
Class A also gets Jamesville-DeWitt and Fulton from the former Developmental League.
Class B will go from 16 teams to a dozen. Cazenovia, Bishop Ludden and Solvay drop down to Class C and Mexico is becoming an independent.
Class C will lose one team. Adirondack left for eight-man football while Cato-Meridian, Herkimer and Utica Notre Dame deparedt for Class D. Port Byron-Union Springs is going independent. Incoming are Cazenovia, Bishop Ludden and Solvay, as is Sherburne-Earlville, which played eight-man last season.
Class D grows from eight to 11 teams. Cato-Meridian, Herkimer and Notre Dame are coming down from Class C.
Local eight-man football goes from 10 to nine teams, and there will be only one division. Adirondack is going down to eight-man, while Sherburne and Altmar-Parish-Williamson head back to 11-man football.