Photo courtesy Gene Twardzik
Gloversville quarterback William “Buck” Galster, left, rolls to his right as he looks to pass during the Huskies’ scrimmage with New Paltz, Saturday in Gloversville.
By ADAM SHINDER and
For The Express
Week by week during the 2016 high school football season, the list of healthy starting quarterbacks in Fulton and Montgomery counties dwindled.
Gloversville’s William “Buck” Galster? A broken hand ended his chances to play under center before the season even started.
Amsterdam’s Trey Holloway? A broken fibula in Week 3 ended his season, and that was just the beginning of the Rugged Rams’ quarterback saga.
Broadalbin-Perth’s Brodryk Benton? He made it to Week 7 before suffering the most gruesome injury of all, a badly broken right leg that forced him into a full-leg cast for the next 10 days before undergoing surgery.
And that’s only a partial list. Between six area teams, nearly 15 players were at the top of their squad’s respective depth charts at quarterback at some point during the 2016 season. Only one local signal-caller, Canajoharie’s Nick Kocjan, started all of his team’s games.
For the quarterbacks that are coming off injuries, it’s been a long road to recovery — one that hasn’t fully ended yet for all of them.
The longest road back has been for Holloway, who suffered a season-ending broken left fibula in Amsterdam’s Week 3 loss to Queensbury last September. He got back on his feet in time to play basketball over the winter, but in the intervening months, Holloway’s longstanding back problems flared up and have kept him out of full participation in most of the Rams’ preseason practices.
“It’s very frustrating, but I’ve been in this situation before,” Holloway said. “I turn into a coach and give back to my team.”
Holloway led Amsterdam to a Section II Class A championship and a berth in the state semifinals in his first year as a starter in 2015. He was on pace for another solid season last year before it was derailed when he scrambled out of the pocket on the Rams’ third play from scrimmage against Queensbury, which abruptly turned him from quarterback into quarterback coach — first to Trey Ausfeld, then to Adel Rosario, who filled in after Ausfeld tore his anterior cruciate ligament two weeks later.
This year, as Holloway’s fought to return to the field, it’s been a similar scenario, with the senior now mentoring Andrew Giaimo as he takes over the reins of the Amsterdam offense in Holloway’s absence, with Nic Carbone and DeAnthony Colon also working in the Rugged Rams’ quarterback group.
“We’ve fought through adversity like this before,” said Holloway, who added he’s not sure how long his recovery timeframe will be. “Now we’re experienced. They’ve had the quarterback go down before, and now we’re in the same situation, but I’m more optimistic because I’ll be back eventually.”
Amsterdam coach Doug Edick knows Holloway is anxious to return, but doesn’t want his quarterback to try and rush himself back onto the field.
“He’s doing everything he can. He’s chomping at the bit,” Edick said. “We’re slowing it down. We’re keeping it a slow process.”
At Gloversville, Galster was due to be the Huskies’ starting quarterback in 2016 until a fluke play derailed his junior season. During Gloversville’s scrimmage with La Salle Institute, Galster — the starting quarterback for the Gloversville JV team as a sophomore — broke his left hand when it was sandwiched between two helmets.
He was able to return in October against Scotia-Glenville, playing with a cast in his hand and only playing on defense at safety. He eventually had his cast removed and played without it against Amsterdam, but still didn’t take on any duties at quarterback where the Huskies relied on Anthony Ponticello, with Trevor Mee used as a secondary option to run the ball.
Galster’s spent a long offseason to make sure he gets his chance to helm the Huskies’ spread offense as a senior.
““I just got in the weight room and worked hard. It feels a lot better,” Galster said. “I’m 100 percent. I can do anything with it. I want to be able to take a hit. I also worked on my footsteps and got much more accurate with my throws. I go into the game hoping not to get injured and if I get injured, I just come back stronger.”
Then there was B-P’s Benton, who suffered the scariest injury of all. Late in the Patriots’ Week 7 game against Johnstown, he was at his middle linebacker spot when he shot towards a gap to try and disrupt a running play, only for a blocked teammate to roll into his legs.
Benton’s right leg snapped, and he was taken from the field in an ambulance. He spent the next 10 days in a full-leg cast, underwent surgery and was fitted with a split below his knee. Twenty days later, he was walking — with the help of a cast and crutches.
He made it back to competition in the winter for the end of B-P’s JV basketball season and starred for the Patriots’ varsity baseball team as a sophomore before playing on a pair of summer travel baseball teams.
Now, he’s ready to head back out onto the gridiron.
“Instead of working out every couple days, I worked out a couple times every day,” Benton said. “I’m in better shape than last year. I’m moving around a lot better. You can’t think of going out there and getting injured.”
Benton may not like to think about the prospect of injury, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t give Patriots head coach Jim Pelneau just a little pause.
“Because of our low numbers it’s nerve-wracking to have Brodyrk play defense,” Pelneau said. “His work ethic is second to none. He looks like he’s never missed a beat. He just brings so much experience.”
Benton, Galster and Holloway all enter the season coming off — or still recovering from — injuries that disrupted them last year. And that’s not all for area quarterback turmoil. Fonda-Fultonville’s Dan Parslow only played four games in 2016 before injuries ended his senior season, with John Mancini eventually taking over late in the year as a freshman. Johnstown shuffled its quarterback situation multiple times in 2016 to best take advantage of Sam McInnis’ versatility, and the Sir Bills entered their scrimmage with a competition for the starting spot between Trevor Porter and Kerry Blackwood still unsettled.
Only Kocjan at Canajoharie made it through 2016 unscathed, and he’s back for his senior year this fall.
Being a high school starting quarterback is stressful, injuries or not. How do you cope?
“One day at a time,” Holloway said. “We’ve got to work hard at practice and not get ahead of ourselves.”