Football practice on the horizon

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On Monday, Aug. 18, all 56 Nassau County public high school football teams will begin preparations for the upcoming season, scheduled to open Friday, Sept. 12 with a handful of games under the lights beginning at 6 p.m. with a Conference II battle between Kennedy and Westbury.

Farmingdale, Carey, Lawrence and Roosevelt are out to defend county championships. All four are seeded at the top of their respective conferences. Head coach Mike Stanley’s Seahawks of Carey, seeded at the top of Conference II and coming off a perfect season, will attempt to become the first team to win the Rutgers Cup in back-to-back seasons since Hempstead in 1985-86. The Seahawks open with a trip to Mepham on Sept. 13. 

Farmingdale kicks off the Conference I campaign at Massapequa on Sept. 12, while Lawrence opens Conference III action at Bethpage. Roosevelt’s Conference IV opener is at West Hempstead.

The first three days of practice are non-contact, with helmets and cleats the only equipment permitted. Protective pads and blocking devises will be used beginning Monday, and game scrimmages can be held after the completion of 12 practices.

Developmental League experiment ends
Following the 2011 season, the executive board and athletic council of Section VIII, Nassau’s governing body approved the creation of a Relief Developmental League in football for two years. The experiment has ended and each conference is going back to the traditional 14 teams, based on enrollment.

The six public schools — Port Washington, Great Neck North, Great Neck South, Roslyn, Jericho and Friends Academy — that comprised the majority of the league had a combined record of just 5-35 in 2011. Long Island Lutheran and St. Dominic also competed in the league last year, and results were mixed.

The return to the previous format is not without change, however. Teams seeded No. 14 (Port Washington, Great Neck South, Roslyn, and Oyster Bay) will face the No. 13 and 12 seeds twice apiece, and play seeds 8-11 once apiece. The No. 13 seed will also face No. 11 twice.

“All teams are back in regular conferences, which is a good thing,” Section VIII football coordinator Pat Pizzarelli said. “Some teams still need some relief. We’re going to try this schedule for a year and evaluate it. I’m excited to see how it’s going to work out.”

Of the six public schools returning to regular conferences, Friends Academy, seeded No. 10 in Conference IV, has the highest ranking for the upcoming season. Jericho and Great Neck North are seeded No. 13 in Conference II and III, respectively.

The 2012 campaign marked the first time a developmental league has existed in Nassau since the six-team Island Conference in 1991.

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, beginning Sept. 13. Games in Week 4 will be played on Thursday, Oct. 2.

Conference hoppers
Seven teams switched conferences for 2014 based on enrollment figures. MacArthur moved from Conference II to I, Sewanhaka and New Hyde Park jumped from III to II, South Side moved from II to III, Valley Stream North and North Shore moved from IV to III, while Valley Stream South moved to IV from III.

Rivalries renewed
There is no shortage of rivalry games this year, especially with Sewanhaka moving into Conference II. The Indians will visit Carey in Week 3 and host Elmont in Week 4. Each of the Bellmore-Merrick schools (Calhoun, Kennedy, Mepham) will battle one another for a second straight year in Conference II. Mepham hosts Calhoun in Week 2, the Colts are home against Kennedy in Week 4, and the Cougars host Mepham in the regular-season finale on Nov. 1. Oceanside opens the campaign against Freeport and closes against Baldwin. In Conference III, Lawrence renews its rivalry with Hewlett on Oct. 11.

10 Games To Watch

Sept. 12: Freeport at Oceanside

Sept. 13 Carey at Mepham

Oct. 2: Lynbrook at Lawrence

Oct. 2: Wantagh at Garden City

Oct. 2: Seaford at Roosevelt

Oct. 11: Lawrence at Hewlett  

Oct. 18: Garden City at Carey

Oct. 18: Freeport at Baldwin

Oct. 18: Elmont at Sewanhaka

Nov. 1: Baldwin at Oceanside