Another year, another change for the Dover High School football team.
A year after the Dragons moved from Section 1 to Section 9, the school’s gridiron team has moved up from Class C to Class B, putting it in the same class with perennial contenders Marlboro and Spackenkill.
Less than a week into their official preseason workouts, the Dragons said they’re ready for the challenge.
“I think a lot of these kids are ready to go. They’re ready to hit other teams,” Mark Vinci, who’s set to begin his senior season as an offensive and defensive tackle, said after Wednesday morning’s workout. “It’s just going to be a dogfight for every other team that goes up against us. It’s going to be hard for them.”
Marlboro was a state semifinalist a year ago, and New Paltz and Spackenkill are seemingly always in the mix for a section title.
Given the competition that awaits Dover in its new league, sixth-year head coach Chris Lounsbury said he’s eager to see how his team responds to the new season, starting at Highland on Sept. 6.
“We have our hands full, for sure,” said Lounsbury, a Dover graduate, “but it’s a challenge, and the kids are going to take it and run with it.”
Tye Mill said he and his teammates are ready for their new foes.
The senior, who will see time at quarterback, wide receiver and cornerback, said he’s confident in the ability of the Dragons to adapt to the new league.
“I think we’ll be good,” he said, “only because the competition is kind of equal to where it was last year: We play a lot of the same teams, even though we moved up a class, and the greater competition will make us play better so I’m looking forward to it.”
Dover lost roughly half its roster to graduation, but the Dragons aren’t expecting much of a drop-off in talent. To the contrary, junior Jon Lieto said many younger players are eager for their shot to fill those vacancies and contribute.
With the addition of 10 players from neighboring Webutuck High School — Amenia’s Warriors haven’t had a football team since 2006 — Lieto said there’s reason to be optimistic.
“There’s a lot of good kids,” said the offensive tackle/linebacker. “I think we’re going to have a couple players from Webutuck; now we’re a mixed team. A bunch of kids are actually stepping up and they really want to play, so we’re looking forward to putting them on the field.”
Lounsbury, too, said the influx of players from Webutuck can only help bolster the Dragons and make the squad a unified team ready for the new campaign.
“It’s been great,” the coach said about adding the Webutuck student-athletes.
“I’m lucky enough to have lived up in that community, so I coached a lot of the young guys in Little League and T-ball and things like that. Giving them an opportunity, for a lot of those kids who have played Pop Warner or even never played football, just to have an opportunity for them to come and play, I think, is really important because football teaches you so much other than just playing the game.
“It’s great for those kids, and they’re doing a great job.
“We’ve got about 10 (Webutuck) kids on the varsity, and they’re working as hard, they’ve blended in with our guys. They’ve done a great job, so I’m real proud of them so far.”