Skip to content

New football program off to a strong start

Written by on September 16, 2022 Filed in District Announcements, SRHS Announcements, SRMS Announcements
Young football players huddling on the field

Members of the new Salmon River Modified Football team huddle on the field during a scrimmage in Malone on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.

The year was 1975. Microsoft had just been born, “Jaws” was out in theaters and the price of gasoline hovered around 57 cents per gallon. It was also when Salmon River Central School District last had its own football program.

This all changes for the 2022-23 school year. Salmon River has launched an entirely new football program from the ground up, nearly five decades later.

The new Salmon River Modified Football team is made up of seventh, eighth and ninth graders. After just three weeks of existence, 30 students are members of the team, and more kids are being encouraged to join. Some players have football experience, while others have never played an organized sport before.

Coach Andrew Kershner, a second-grade teacher, and Coach Jim Barnes, a physical education teacher, are leading the new program together.

“We have a wide variety of kids who are on the team,” said Barnes, who has coached several other sports in the district since 2006. “We are open to anyone who is interested in playing.”

“The more students we have, the better our players are going to be,” said Kershner, who began teaching at Salmon River in 2021 and has prior coaching experience. “It’s important for players to have the drive to want to be the best and push each other to be the best.”

Finding a balance

While the point of a football game is generally to win, it certainly does not mean everything to this team this school year.

“If we can win a game this year, great,” said Barnes. “But, the focus is teaching them the skills of football.”

In addition to learning the ins and outs of the game, members of the team will also need to maintain focus in the classroom.

“My expectations for football players are higher than anything else because it’s more than just the game,” said Kershner. “These kids have grown so much, not just as football players, but as people, over just the past three weeks.”

On the field, students are learning about character development, specifically focusing on four rules: being a good person, being a learner, having a student-before-athlete mentality and putting in the work.

“There are also many life lessons kids learn through sports,” said Barnes. “Football is unlike any other sport. They learn so much on and off the field.”

Community excitement

Even though the team has only played two scrimmages so far and has been practicing for just a few weeks, excitement in the community is building.

“A lot of the older generation, especially those who once played football here, are very excited about football being back at Salmon River,” said Barnes. “Many parents, grandparents and others in the community are already coming out to watch us play.”

Ceremonial coin toss

During Saturday’s upcoming home game against Canton Central, Irv MacLaren will be conducting the coin toss. MacLaren, who spent 33 years teaching and coaching at Salmon River, was the football coach when the old football program ended in 1975.

MacLaren won’t be alone. The man who played quarterback for the 1975 team, Billy Cross, will also be at Saturday’s game.

The Salmon River Modified Boys Football team will take on Canton Central at 10 a.m. at Salmon River Central School on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022.

Forward-thinking program

Both Barnes and Kershner believe there is a lot of potential when it comes to the future of this new football program. There are hopes of implementing junior varsity and varsity teams in the years to come.

“What we are trying to stress to these young men is to keep their grades up so they are able to make it to the next level,” said Barnes. “Being able to make the grade and graduate are top priorities.”

“The potential is there,” said Kershner. “It’s all about the kids. They are putting in the work to make it happen and it is awesome to see!”

Cultivating a feeder program is also a priority for the new program. The idea is that a future varsity team could help student athletes on the junior varsity and modified teams become stronger players.

Down the road, Kershner mentioned there would be the possibility of holding camps to allow all kids of different skill levels the opportunity to interact with and learn from each other.

Other programs

Modified Football is just one of five sports being offered at Salmon River this fall.

In addition to football, the school’s other well-established athletic offerings this fall are soccer, volleyball, cross country and swimming. This includes modified, junior varsity and varsity soccer teams and junior varsity and varsity volleyball teams.

“We are proud to have a robust athletics program at Salmon River,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stanley J. Harper. “The new football team allows us to provide additional diverse opportunities for our student-athletes and I am excited to see it thrive for years to come.”

Learn more about Salmon River Athletics

Parents/guardians of interested students can learn more about signing up for Modified Football or another fall sport by contacting Athletic Director Shawn Miller at 518-358-6639 or through email at