Rich Ward expects his Marlboro High School football team to be “battle tested” immediately.
The three-time defending Section 9 Class B champions open the 2014 season with Section 9 Class A powers Wallkill and Cornwall sandwiched around a game against rival New Paltz.
The Iron Dukes start the season at Wallkill on Sept. 5.
“They loaded us up pretty good. We’ll be battle tested and look forward to the challenge. Hopefully we could survive and move on to play our best football at the end of the year,” Ward said.
“(The three games) will tell me a lot. It’s a great challenge for us and a compliment to the program (that) Section 9 scheduled us with three of the top (Class) A schools.”
Once the first three games are completed, Marlboro competes in what is considered a competitive class in Section 9 against the likes of Red Hook, Rondout Valley, Dover, James I. O’Neill, John S. Burke Catholic, Ellenville, Spackenkill and rival Highland.
“Everything is going well so far. I really think we’re going to be a strong team. I think we have a chance for another Section 9 title and we’ll be ready to face everyone coming towards us,” senior offensive and defensive tackle Sean Burley said.
To win in 2014, the Iron Dukes will have to adapt to life without 2013 Poughkeepsie Journal Offensive Player of the Year Ryan Cary and Journal First-Team All Star running back Marsallis Faircloth. Cary threw for 2,157 yards and 10 touchdowns, and ran for 2,011 yards and 25 touchdowns. Faircloth finished with 1,683 rushing yards, 313 receiving yards and a combined 26 touchdowns.
Senior Ray Pacella is the quarterback for 2015.
“It’s early but I like how balanced we are,” Ward said. “We can run the ball, throw the ball. We have good linemen, decent team speed and some size. We’re a well-rounded team. We don’t have a standout player but we have good, solid football players.
“I think it will make us a better team. Overall, I miss all those guys who touched the ball for us last year, but it’s a new year with new challenges. Hopefully we can stay healthy, stay intact and make a run.”
Defensively, Marlboro lost Journal first-teamer Dustin Eyerman to graduation but returns senior Ryan Greaven, a 2013 Journal first-teamer.
“We’ve got to stay disciplined. We have a lot of guys coming back. I think we can pick up from where we left off last season. I don’t think we’re taking too many steps back. We’re going forward,” Marlboro senior wide receiver/defensive back Matt Marquis said.
Going forward, the Iron Dukes are preparing for the challenges awaiting them in 2014 as they pursue the fourth consecutive Section 9 title.
“We want to keep moving forward and continue that success. We have to stay driven and not be satisfied with the previous seasons,” senior defensive back Alain Dumas said.
Dan Pietrafesa: email@example.com, 845-437-4849, Twitter: @PJDanPietrafesa