On Aug. 20, all Nassau County public high school varsity football programs will begin preparations for the upcoming season, scheduled to open Friday, Sept. 7 with a handful of games.
With decades of experience as a coach and/or administrator, and with the approval of the vast majority of athletic directors and coaches, Section VIII football coordinator Matt McLees decided to trim the preseason by one week — four days of practice — to allow for one more weekend of summertime.
“We’re still able to get in all mandated practice days to have scrimmages and open the regular season as usual,” McLees said. “With all of the offseason workouts that take place these days starting in July, I don’t know if everyone needs as much time in the preseason. Weekends in the summer are precious, so this way there’s one more to enjoy.”
Oceanside (Conference I), Garden City (II), Lawrence (III) and Seaford (IV) won county titles in 2017. Of the four defending champions, all with the exception of Oceanside is seeded No. 1 this season. The Sailors, who graduated the bulk of starters from their first county championship team in 40 years, are No. 4 and open at Westbury. A rematch of the county championship game takes place Oct. 13 at home versus Farmingdale, the No. 3 seed. As far as rivalry games, the Sailors visit Freeport, this year’s No. 1 seed, in Week 3, and host Baldwin in Week 5.
Garden City, which has won the Rutgers Cup two years in a row and hasn’t lost a game since 2015, opens with a trip to Herricks/Roslyn. Lawrence kicks off on the road against Wantagh in a rematch of the conference title game, while defending Long Island champ Seaford goes to Locust Valley.
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 2018, with Great Neck continuing to form a combined team between its two high schools and the pairing of Herricks/Roslyn, there are 54 squads in Nassau. Conference II will field 12 teams — two fewer than the others. In this case, no teams will face each other twice.
Five programs hop conferences
Five programs have switched conferences for the upcoming season, not including the combined Herricks/Roslyn squad merging from Conferences I and III, respectively, into II. The reward is facing Garden City in the opener. Conference III has three newcomers, with South Side down from II along with Valley Stream South and North Shore both up from IV. Valley Stream South and North Shore will meet in Week 4, while South Side opens at home against Hewlett. Jericho and Great Neck District both bounced from II to IV, and though ranked No. 11 and 12, respectively, do not meet.
Monday afternoon (JV) football
Saturday mornings are still good for cartoons, but don’t go searching for JV football in Nassau County for most of 2018. Six of the eight JV games will be held Mondays at 4:30 p.m. Nine schools were unable to field JV squads a year ago, McLees said, because of low numbers. Now, kids who don’t step on the field for the varsity game will be eligible to see JV action. For the first time, this also includes juniors. “The hope and expectation is that more schools will be able to field a JV, and more kids will be able to play in a game every week,” McLees said.