BY MICHAEL KELLY
NISKAYUNA — The challenge ahead is a steep one.
The Niskayuna football team wants to embrace that.
“Honestly,” Silver Warriors junior Reggie Melvin said, “we’re not intimidated at this point. We’re looking forward to our first game and seeing what we’re made of.”
After playing the past two seasons as a postseason-ineligible team in Class A, Niskayuna is set to rejoin Section II Class AA this season in the Empire Division.
The step up in classification will be a tough one for the Silver Warriors, which are coming off a 3-6 campaign and whose roster of athletes lacks substantial playing experience heading into the 2016 season.
“But I see a lot of energy in these guys,” senior Alex Singsheim said. “I know how hyped we are for the season. It’s tough because we don’t have a whole lot of guys in the program, but we’re all in for it.”
Veteran head coach John Furey, who will retire from the Silver Warriors at season’s end, said he has two dozen varsity players for the upcoming season and 35 players at the junior varsity level. At times, he said, he expects to dip into that JV pool to augment his varsity roster.
The Silver Warriors return several defensive starters, but need to piece together their offense.
“It’s been a challenge to bring them along, but they’ve come a long, long way,” Furey said. “We’ve had guys step up and do a nice job. They’re rising to the occasion.”
Singsheim — a tight end on offense, a linebacker on defense — has led the Silver Warriors during the preseason as their captain, while Melvin is one of the team’s players shifting into a much different role. A linebacker on defense, Melvin will move from his offensive position a year ago as a lineman to become one of the team’s running backs.
“I’m getting a lot of reps in and trying to get the position down because I’m not too familiar with it yet,” Melvin said.
The enthusiastic way Melvin has taken to his new position, though, is one of the examples Furey sees from his players of them making the most of the opportunities before them.
“Each day, we’ve seen [improvement],” Furey said. “They’ve come a long way in a short time.”
Niskayuna opens its season with a Sept. 2 away game against Guilderland and does not get its first home game until Week 4 against CBA.
Playing back at the Class AA level, there will be no easy matchups for the Silver Warriors. The challenge to test themselves each week, though, is one they accept.
“It brings out something special in everyone here,” Singsheim said. ““Everyone knows it’s going to be tough, so everyone here knows they have to work even harder. We need to be more focused, more smart, and we need to work more. We’ve got to turn it up a notch.”