RICHFIELD SPRINGS, N.Y. (WKTV) - Of the 28 local high school football teams that just completed the first week of training camp, the one that had the biggest adjustments to make is the newly combined Mohawk/Richfield Springs team.
With the number of players not huge at Mohawk and extremely small at Richfield Springs in recent years, the schools combined their football programs over the offseason, giving their student-athletes a better chance to win and saving costs. There was initially some opposition from each school's purists, but the team says the transition has been smooth.
"The merger's been going great, actually," says senior fullback/linebacker Eric Ulinski, who attends Richfield Springs. "There's a lot less struggle than what everyone expected. Everyone's bonding really well so far.
What was a struggle early on was--as you might expect--learning all the new names. That, and dealing with a roster that is around twice the size of what each side is used to.
"Honestly, our biggest problem the first day--and this is for all the coaching staff here--was having 56 players on the field," says head coach Roy Upson, who retained the position he held at Mohawk. "We haven't had that in years past, but that was a good problem."
In addition to learning the new players, the new team will have to learn a new league and a new class as the combining of each school's enrollment has moved the team up to Class C from D, which is the smallest of the five classes. But the players from Mohawk have an additional adjustment: a daily trip to Richfield Springs to practice and, eventually, to play while Mohawk's field is renovated.
"It's a new thing coming up here every day on a bus," says senior tight end/cornerback Zach Hunt. "But every day it's getting a little better, a little easier."
One important part of the merger still needs to be settled: a new team nickname. Mohawk is the Mohicans and Richfield Springs is the Indians, but Upson says the players will vote on a new name.