OSWEGO — After not fielding a team in 2019, the Oswego varsity football team is back with a new stadium and a new head coach.
The season starts today when the Bucs host Sandy Creek at 6 p.m. at the new stadium.
Coach Jason Primrose is in his first season at the helm of the Buccaneers after spending the last four seasons at Marcellus with the junior varsity program. He said this year’s 41-player roster is one of the largest he has seen since he began teaching in 2001.
Even with the high numbers, there are several players who have no experience. Primrose said he is starting from the beginning both on the field with his athletes as well as trying to build the community around football.
“I’m going to start from scratch and we’re going to build from there and build that formation for the future,” Primrose said. “I’m just trying to build a camaraderie, like a school spirit so that people go, ‘Hey, what are you doing on Friday night? Oh, I’m going to the football game.’ We haven’t had that in a very long time. I’m trying to build that culture back.”
Due to COVID-19, it was an unusual offseason for Oswego. It all began after schools were closed last March when Primrose sent his players different workouts to complete to prepare for a potential season in the fall. Even though the team has been practicing for two-and-a-half weeks, the preparation for this season has been more than a year in the making.
A lot of kids went from “nothing to full-blown sprint,” according to Primrose, since he only had a handful of athletes that came directly from winter sports.
“A lot of the first week was, ‘OK, we’ve got to get them in shape and we’ve got to get them moving,’” he said. “The second week, we were able to get scheming and now we’re able to put it all together and we’re coming together pretty good.”
He mentioned that it was tough to get the players motivated because “there was no real timeline” as to when football would return to Oswego. But once the school got confirmation, Primrose said, “Kids started jumping on the bandwagon.”
There were a lot of virtual workouts on Google Meet, where Primrose was at his barn lifting weights and bags of feed.
“I had one kid that was working out with a safe. Another one was working out with a chair,” the coach said. “I told the kids not to worry about finding weight, just show me what they have in their room and I would figure something out.”
Also with the coronavirus, Primrose said some unique changes have occurred, including having to deal with spring break, something he has never had to deal with since football is typically a fall sport.
“Every time I think I have something figured out, it all gets changed. Now we have to do a facemask with a mouthpiece in. … Is it going to be comfortable? No. Is it going to be what it’s going to be? Yes,” he said. “Some kids are planning on going on spring break and we can’t get out of it. I get it.”
But COVID-19 has delayed some plans that Primrose had in terms of building a strong program throughout both the modified and varsity football teams, building one “collective unit” where everyone is learning the same drills from the same coaches, “specifically working at their position getting everybody better.”
Down the line, Primrose eventually wants to get the Pop Warner Football leagues involved, where the players on varsity are “doing the chains” or filling water bottles during games to create a “connectiveness” with all of the levels of football in Oswego.
“I really wanted to have the modified program here so we could all practice together, so all the kids from (grade) seven to (grade) 12 were getting the same quarterback drills, the same line drills,” Primrose said. “You can have a junior or senior buddy up with a seventh- or eighth-grader. For the longest time, everything’s been separated. I want to try to bring them together. … That’s how we’re going to be better.”
For now, Primrose is preparing for the Bucs’ shortened four-game campaign with his three assistant coaches. Primrose didn’t acknowledge any specific players for leadership or key roles during the season, but said the team is “building the leadership now.”
“There’s not one kid that sticks out because we’re coming together as a team. We’re all picking each other up,” he said. “It’s everybody keeping everybody accountable and everyone’s moving in the right direction.”
After 29 months since Oswego’s last game — a 36-22 loss to Phoenix in the Developmental League third-place game in 2018 — the Bucs will play at the new turf field today, hosting Sandy Creek at 6 p.m.
The Bucs will play at home against both Pulaski and Mexico, as well, while traveling to Phoenix on April 15.
Primrose said it’s a “surreal moment” that the season is finally starting. He added he isn’t focused on the team’s wins or losses, just the players’ effort.
“If they’re giving me the best they’ve got, then things are going to work out well. I can’t necessarily say that’s wins or losses,” he said. “We’re going for a win. But if they give me their best effort, that’s all I can ask for.”