Section II will kick off the 2011 area high school football season tonight.One of the key games takes place in the Class AA Liberty Division where Shaker entertains Columbia at 7 p.m.

"We are very excited about the 2011 season and have some solid returning players," said Shaker head coach Greg Sheeler, entering his second year.

Last year, Shaker started out 6-0 and eventually finished 6-3, losing to Shenendehowa in opening round play of the Section II playoffs.

"It was definitely a challenge," said Sheeler about his first year running a program. "Those years as an assistant coach really helped. I learned every week."

Shaker will feature junior quarterback Chris Landers who was an All-Liberty League performer last year as a sophomore defensive back.  Some key seniors are Kyle Bernard RB, Adrian Valentino WR, Steve Boldish LB, Brandon Souza SS, and Dom Sposito OL. We also have some solid juniors from the JV team in Kyle Hitchcock-Powers OL, Kenny Jackson RB, and Jared Kirkey RB.

"Columbia is going to be a tough opponent. They are very physical and big upfront (275 across the line). Their QB John Stanley is a returning all-star and throws the ball very well. A key for us is to control the tempo of the game by being balanced on offense. We need to keep our defense off the field so we do not wear down with the size of Columbia," said Sheeler.

Columbia head coach Craig Cavotta expects a tough game against Shaker.

"Shaker is very good. They had a lot of success last year and have a good core of players returning. Coach Sheeler has done a great job in turning their program around. Our kids have been working hard and will play every play as hard as they can." said Cavotta.

Shaker and Columbia will be competing in the Class AA Liberty Division along with Colonie, LaSalle, Niskayuna and Schenectady.

"The AA's are going to be tough. It's anybody's pick to win. It's a very competitive division. We're excited about it. We're going to get the opponent's best game," said Sheeler.

The Colonie at Schenectady Class AA Liberty Division game was originally scheduled for Friday night but moved to Saturday night to accomodate Time Warner television coverage.  Jim Kramer is starting his third year as the Patriots head coach and hopes the team will improve on last year's 4-5 record. Schenectady lost to Ballston Spa in first round of the playoffs.

"We have a very young team this year, but they continue to work hard and improve each day. I am excited to see how we develop as a team as the year unfolds," said Kramer.

Some key players to watch for Schenectady are Jallah Tarver (wr/db), Justin Richards (ol/dl), Tyler Depasquale (ol/dl), and Kwame Jarvis (qb).

How does Kramer see his opponent?

"Colonie will present a great challenge to us. They are very well-coached and are motivated to win just as we are. They have a skilled quarterback and active linebackers that we must slow down if we want to be successful," he said.

Longtime coach Brent Steuerwald will begin his final year at the helm as Shenendehowa hosts Bethlehem in Class AA Empire Division action at 7 p.m.

Also, Queensbury makes a trip to Amsterdam in a Class A Northwest Division game. Throughout the years, these teams have formed one of the biggest rivalries in Section II.

Amsterdam leads the series, 5-4. The teams first met in 1997 in the Class A championship game. Amsterdam prevailed last year, 19-17.

In another game that was changed, Fonda-Fultonville will host Watervliet in a Class C South Division contest Monday at 1 p.m. You can blame Tropical Storm Irene in this case as Montgomery County was hit hard and a flood emergency was declared.

Burnt Hills will entertain Gloversville in a Class A Northwest Division game at 7 p.m. Last year, the Spartans finished 11-1 losing to Harrison 17-7 in the state semifinals.

Matt Shell, a Gloversville High graduate, is back for his 10th season at Burnt Hills.

Troy, Class AA champs last year, will compete in Class A this time around and will visit Scotia-Glenville in a Southeast Division game at 7 p.m.

Cairo-Durham will not field a football team this season.

For a complete schedule, visit the Section II website.

Article by Mike Collar