When Section 9 Athletics announced last week its realignment for high school football teams next fall, a number of area coaches became giddy.
This news was an early holiday present.
For New Paltz High School, however, the change likely won’t be as favorable. The Huguenots captured the Section 9 Class B championship last month but are headed back to Class A, thanks to an uptick in enrollment. New Paltz is projected to be the smallest “A” school, presenting a challenge that football coach Tom Tegeler said will force them to “step our game up.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt, which had been the smallest Class AA school, slides down to Class A. Pine Plains, with its short roster that draws students from Stissing Mountain High School and Rhinebeck, drops from Class B to C. Millbrook, a runner-up in the Class C final the last two seasons, moves down to Class D.
“I am ecstatic!” Pine Plains coach Rob Scott said of the change. “It’s where we belong. I had 28 kids on my roster last season and we’re graduating 12 of them. Moving to ‘C’ now couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Millbrook coach Sean Keenan and Roosevelt’s Brian Bellino expressed that sentiment almost verbatim.
“We’ve been one of the smallest ‘C’ schools for years and now we’re losing 14 players,” Keenan said. “This move is coming at a great time.”
The shifts are dictated by the Basic Education Data Survey (BEDS) numbers, which track schools’ enrollment for each year, sans the graduating senior class.
Teams whose schools have an enrollment of 930 or more students are classified as Class AA, the largest grouping in the New York State Public High Schools Athletics Association. Class A includes schools with 570-929 students; 365-569 for Class B; 240-364 for Class C. The maximum for Class D is 239.
Roosevelt, often hovering between A and AA, moved up to Class AA four years ago and, Bellino said, found it difficult to compete with considerably larger schools. The Presidents went 6-3 last fall but didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
“Enrollment has been declining here so I figured we’d be dropped down,” Bellino said. “It’s hard in ‘AA’ when you’re going against schools like Newburgh with 1,500 more kids. This (move) puts us more in line with schools our size.”
Roosevelt will likely be the largest Class A team in the section, competing in conference A-1 with Cornwall, Goshen and Wallkill.
New Paltz moved to Class A after winning the “B” title in 2010. Last year, the Huguenots lost in the first round of the playoffs. This fall, with an enrollment dip to 562 — just within the 569 threshold — the Huguenots moved back to “B” and unseated five-time defending champion Marlboro in the section final. But enrollment for New Paltz High School next year is expected to be 578.
“You have to play the schedule in front of you,” Huguenots coach Tom Tegeler said. “Cornwall and Roosevelt are gonna be very tough, but I think the other teams have to respect us, too.”
The challenge of being the smallest “A” team, Tegeler said, is that most of their opponents will have greater depth “and we can wear down physically, just not having the same numbers.” The Huguenots do return several standouts, including Journal All-Stars Jimmy and Kenny Verney.
Millbrook, even with a young team, is expected to be a title contender in Class D. And with Tuckahoe and Haldane its likely challengers in Section 1, the possibility exists of a run to the state championship game.
“We’re gonna be competitive,” Keenan said. “We’ll be a young team, but we have some good players back.”
Eldred, after a year without a football program, will return and compete in the same league as Millbrook. That, Keenan said, is a bonanza. Eldred, citing a shortage of players, forfeit its 2015 game against the Blazers and Keenan alleged Eldred gave short notice, forcing Millbrook to cancel its Senior Night plans. So the teams’ meeting next season, he said, “will be circled on our schedule.”
Pine Plains went 3-7 but competed in the same division as Class B powers Spackenkill, James I. O’Neill and Liberty. They lost those games by a combined 157-19.
“We had a tough time competing physically,” said Scott. The Bombers now will be grouped with Dover, Ellenville and newly-formed Onteora.
“I think we’ll have a shot at being a playoff team,” Scott said. “My players are aware of the move and everyone is excited.”
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4