Recorder file photo - Broadalbin-Perth varsity football coach Jim Pelneau gives instructions to his players prior to some defensive drills during a workout last season. Pelneau enters his second season as head coach.
By MICHAEL KELLY
For the Express
BROADALBIN — Now, it’s his show.
When Broadalbin-Perth head coach Jim Pelneau took over the head coaching reins from his predecessor, Rick Snyder, before the beginning of the 2011 season, the rookie head coach inherited a team filled with upperclassmen. While Pelneau and assistant coach Vinnie Calderone, former teammates at B-P in their playing days, worked to create the beginnings of their reign atop the program, the 2011 campaign served more as a transition year for B-P football than a complete fresh start.
“Those guys (the graduated seniors) bought into what we did last year,” says Pelneau. “But, when you start with a younger group, you can really mold them into a different direction.”
B-P’s got a greenish group this season, with just five seniors on its roster and roughly 10 players with legitimate prior varsity experience. While that level of inexperience might harm B-P in some of its early-season games, it also gives Pelneau a chance to fully install in the program the values he wants — commitment, toughness and brotherhood.
The third value is the most important, says Pelneau. The coach wants his team to develop a family-like vibe to it, something he feels it is already showing.
“Somewhere down the road, that’s going to help us,” says Pelneau. “Maybe it will be in a 4th-and-1 situation, or in a tough game we have to go on the road for, but, somewhere down the road, the fact that they care of each other will pay off for them. ... What we talk about is team unity and bringing a family feel to this thing, which is something that I think we’d been missing the past few years.
“We want to get back to doing things the right way,” continues Pelneau, “and focusing in on the little details. I thought that as the season went on last year, we competed really hard ... and, for this coming year, the momentum’s been great.”
The Patriots began preparing for the 2012 season back in early January, with weight-lifting sessions and the like. Trying to capitalize on his young team’s enthusiasm, Pelneau arranged for his team to be a part of Schalmont’s mid-June team camp.
The appeal of working with Schalmont is easy to see: The Sabres are the class of Section II Class B football, having won the past three sectional championships.
More importantly, the Sabres’ program is a recent juggernaut, having come from some pretty humble beginnings. Schalmont had not won a Section II playoff game before 2009 — the year it first won the section — and rarely had winning seasons to its resume prior to 2008.
“For us to go down there (for team camp) and see what they’re doing, work with him, and see how they’ve raised their program from not being relevant to being the most relevant team in Class B was great,” says Pelneau. “We’re trying to measure ourselves against that.”
Schalmont head coach Joe Whipple, entering his fourth season, says the team’s annual June camp is meant to give his coaching staff a chance to get a feel for the club’s new players.
“We just want to get better,” says Whipple. “We’re not hiding anything.”
That is a good thing for Pelneau and the Patriots, which got to spend the week of team camp picking the brain of their section’s best program.
But Whipple says he got a lot from the camp, too, as it gave him a chance to see the drive of the members in the B-P program. The team camp was held not long after B-P found out the school district’s budget woes were not serious enough to cancel the upcoming season; Whipple says he was amazed that the B-P players were so invested in their upcoming season despite only recently finding out they would, in fact, get to play.
“I give Jim and his staff a lot of credit because they’ve faced adversity,” says Whipple. “They’ve worked hard just to keep their program, and it shows the character he and his program have.”
The team camp was one of several camps the B-P team attended during the past few months, as the squad’s players spent most of their summer together, working to get better. Also getting better has been the coaching staff’s rapport with its players; while the coaches did not lack respect from their players a year ago, the transition of perception of Pelneau and Calderone as assistant coaches to the guys truly in charge took a bit of time.
“But this is their year now, they’ve got a clean slate,” says Tim Gordon, a rising senior. “They’re fiery guys and they’ve got us fired up and ready to play.”