Football practice on the horizon


On Wednesday, Aug. 16, all 54 Nassau County public high school varsity football programs will begin preparations for the upcoming season, scheduled to open Friday, Sept. 8 with a handful of games.

Freeport (Conference I), Garden City (II), Wantagh (III) and Seaford (IV) won county titles in 2016. Of the four defending champions, all with the exception of Freeport is seeded No. 1 this season. Oceanside is the top-ranked team in Conference I.

“Our offseason production has been incredible,” Wantagh head coach Keith Sachs said. “We have some holes to fill, but the commitment around here is at an all-time high.”

The Warriors, who defeated East Islip for the Long Island Class III crown, open their title defense at Division on Saturday, Sept. 9. A rematch of the county championship game takes place Sept. 28 at home versus Roosevelt, the No. 2 seed. Wantagh, which returned to Conference III last fall after a lengthy stay in II, also faces the 3 (Lawrence in Week 6) and 5 (Plainedge in Week 8) seeds on the road.

“There’s a lot of good teams in our conference but we’re in a really good place as a program,” Sachs said.

Freeport, which defeated William Floyd in the L.I. Class I championship game, opens 2017 with a trip to Syosset. The Red Devils face neighboring rivals Baldwin (on the road Sept. 28) and Oceanside (on the road Oct. 7) in consecutive weeks.

Garden City opens at home against Conference II newcomer South Side, the No. 6 seed, while Seaford hosts Carle Place in a rematch of the Conference IV final.

Conferences reshaped and relief remains for lower seeds

After a two-year experiment with a Developmental League designed to create relief for programs such as Port Washington, Great Neck North, Great Neck South, Roslyn, Jericho and Friends Academy, Nassau County returned to its traditional four, 14-team conferences in 2014 with a bit of a twist. Teams seeded

No. 14 face the No. 13 and 12 seeds twice apiece, and play seeds 8 through 11 once apiece. No. 13 also gets No. 11 twice.

For 2017, with Great Neck forming a combined team between its two high schools and the continued absence of Port Washington, Conference III will field 12 teams. In this case, no teams will face each other twice. Roslyn, seeded No. 12, will play seeds 4 through 11. Top-seeded Wantagh will play each of the each teams seeded behind it.

Eight-game schedule continues

Nassau went back to an eight-game regular-season schedule in 2008 after playing only seven games each year from 2003-07. It needed approval from New York State since teams advancing to the county championships play an 11th time. Most games will be played on the traditional Saturdays, with the exception of Week 4 when all games are scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 28.

Conference hoppers

Five teams have switched conferences for the upcoming season. Conference II has three newcomers, with Valley Stream Central down from I while South Side and New Hyde Park moved up from III. Central has a difficult opener at Carey and will host South Side in Week 2.

New Hyde Park opens at home versus Elmont. Long Beach, which opens at Hempstead, and Herricks, which hosts Farmingdale, moved from II to I. Conference IV was unchanged.

Rivalries renewed

There’s never a shortage of rivalry games on the docket, though Lawrence will not face Hewlett this season unless they meet in the Conference III playoffs. The Golden Tornadoes probably have Week 2 circled on the calendar when they travel to Roosevelt, which has won four straight meetings including back-to-back playoff battles.

Elmont hosts Carey in Week 2 in a rematch of a playoff semifinal won by the Seahawks, while Wantagh hosts Bethpage. Seaford visits Clarke in Week 2 and is home to Locust Valley in Week 6.