Sunday Sports: The first 1812 Gridiron Shootout & a look at Carthage Comets football

Published: Aug. 6, 2023 at 6:41 PM EDT
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SACKETS HARBOR, New York (WWNY) - Football took center state on Sunday at Madison Barracks in Sackets Harbor, with a new tournament making it’s debut.

With just a few weeks to go until fall practice kicks off, a half dozen varsity football teams gathered on the fields at Madison Barracks for the inaugural 1812 Gridiron Shootout.

The event is put together by 1812 Sports and Entertainment, the same people that run the 2 weekend long 1812 Shootout in Sackets Harbor.

1812 Sports and Entertainment Vice President Mike Schepis says it’s been an idea in the works for a few years.

”Yeah, so the lacrosse tournament started out back in 1993 with about 8 teams, 8 varsity teams, and now we’ve expanded to 260 teams this past year. This is kind of what we’re hoping to do with the football. We started with 6 teams this year and just kind of hoping to grow it every year,” said Schepis.

Teams from Watertown, South Jeff, Beaver River, General Brown, Gouverneur and Westmoreland took part, with each team playing 5 games with a 3rd and 4th place and championship game rounding out the day.

Getting the chance to go up against different teams with different skill levels is something the coaches feel will benefit their teams as fall practice draws near.

”We’re pretty excited to have the chance to come to this in it’s first year here. We’re the only Section 10 team here. It’s been a great day so far and hopefully it continues,” said Gouverneur Football Coach Sean Devlin.

”It’s great. I hope next year when it gets a little bit bigger, and the word gets out ,and Chad Green can get this going for us. Right now it’s great. We’ve got 6 teams here. I like to play against different competition and it’s great for us,” said Watertown Football Coach Vince Williams.

The coaches say having so many teams in one spot for 7 on 7 is a good benchmark for where their team sits before fall practice kicks off in a few weeks, which is why the organizers picked this weekend to hold the tournament.

”Yeah, this is why we really targeted this date. The 7 on 7 is just starting to finish up and these teams are about to start their seasons, so it feels like a really good time,” said Schepis.

”I think it’s- I mean, the kids have been working hard all summer and this is just a great event to kind of end the 7 on 7 season and kind of transition right into the start,” said Beaver River Coach Matt Lyndaker.

The 1812 Gridiron Shootout, an event players, coaches, and organizers hope becomes a yearly fixture in the North Country for years to come.

When the 2023 high school football season kicks off in September, the Carthage Comets will be on the move, playing in a different class but facing some familiar opponents.

A change in enrollment size has the Carthage Comets Football Team on the move in 2023.

The Comets, who competed in Section 3′s Class A division the past several seasons, will now be a member of the Section 3 Class B East Division.

For Comets Coach Jason Coffman and his team, it’s a return to familiar territory.

”We were there before years ago. The competition that we play, Indian River, New Hartford, Camden, Oneida, these are all teams that we played in the past. They use to be on the schedule every year. We are excited to have a new challenge, write a new chapter here at Carthage going down from the A’s to the B’s. It’s not like it’s gonna get easier. It’s still quite a challenge in Class B,” said Coffman.

One of the biggest differences Coffman says his team will see in dropping from Class A to Class B is the numbers on the opposing team’s sidelines.

”Every team we played last year, they had 60 guys on their sideline. Here we are, marching our 30-40 out there and looking on the other side, it’s kind of intimidating when you see 70 guys over there every single week. I’m expecting it to be a great challenge for my kids and the program. To be able to compete in Class B with so many teams is gonna be quite a challenge,” said Coffman.

The Comets struggled in Class A last season with a 3-6 overall record, 3-4 in Class A.

While the team knows Class B is also very tough, the players feel they have a chance to be more competitive against teams with similar numbers on the roster.

”We’re still gonna have to grind week in and week out in order to be in the top spot. I think we have the group of guys to do that. I think we have the willpower to do that. I think this switch for us, it won’t be a cakewalk, but we’ll definitely get through it as a team,” said Shay Sinitiere.

”I think it’s a great opportunity. Even in Class A we got great competition. Coming down to Class B, still really good competition with IR. I think we have more of an opportunity to make a run for ourselves,” said Donley Wang.

One thing that hasn’t changed: The Comets open their season with a contest against their longtime rivals, the Indian River Warriors.

Welcome to Class B!