Willis, explosive Sabres too much for Riders, 55-9
ROTTERDAM Schalmont gave Ichabod Crane a rude introduction to playoff football Friday night, putting up a touchdown all seven times the first team had the ball and rolling to a 55-9 win in the first round of the Class B playoffs.
Devon Willis ran for five touchdowns and 217 yards on just 10 carries as the Sabres began their quest for a fourth straight Section II title.
The Riders, coming off a 24-22 win over Cohoes last weekend that secured the first playoff game in their four-year football history, were forced to punt on their first four possessions, the last of those resulting in a Schalmont score when Anthony Paturso picked up a blocked kick and ran it in.
Schalmont knew little about the Riders, except that they were an obstacle in what they hope will be another trip to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse for a shot at a state title.
“We just worry about we need to do,” said sophomore quarterback Nick Gallo, who teams with Willis to give Schalmont a strong 1-2 combination on the ground. “They are another team that’s in the way of us getting to where we want to be.
“They’re in the playoffs. They’ve got nothing to lose, so you can’t let down.”
Willis scored three of the first four times he carried the ball and had one called back before he scored his first touchdown.
“Coach just told us to play our game, do what we were tld to do and don’t get complacent.,” said the junior, who has 24 touchdowns going into next weekend’s home semifinal against the winner of tonight’s Broadalbin-Perth vs. Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk contest. “Just go out there and execute.”
“We’re lucky enough to have kids each year who have played in big games,” said Schalmont coach Joe Whipple. “They know we have to play smart. It does not matter what their record was.
“You never know what can happen during a game.”
What happened Friday was the Sabres used that experience to make Ichabod Crane’s postseason a short one, as Schalmont ran its season
record to 7-1, losing only to Class A champ Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.
Not only did the 3-5 Riders fall behind quickly, but they also lost their top offensive threat when Shawn Gerkman, who had run for 14 touchdowns this fall, didn’t return after being injured on a second-quarter carry.
After Willis gave his team a three-touchdown lead after 12 minutes, Paturso’s score off Hunter Gac blocked a punt made it 27-0. Ichabod Crane got its only touchdown on the next possession, but Gallo went 47 yards for a score, and Willis added his fourth TD with 15 seconds left in the half.
Schalmont added another two touchdowns on just the plays in three plays to begin the third quarter. Gac went 60 yards for a TD on Schalmont’s first play of the second half, and Willis raced 91 yards on the second play of the next possession, as Schalmont scored at least 50 points for the fourth straight game.
Willis started the season at quarterback, with Gallo in the backfield. Whipple switched them after a 27-24 win over Schuylerville in Week 3.
“In the last four games, we’ve played well enough on offense where the first string is only playing a half and the first series in the third quarter,” said Whipple. “I was glad to get the second team kids in, because this was probably the last chance they were going to get to play.”
“We just tried to play like we do in the first quarter. Just like we’ve been taught in double sessions, the weight room, practice, the off-season,” Willis said of playing with a big lead. “We just try to keep getting better.”
“We know we have a target on our backs, but we try to stay as calm as we can,” said Gallo. “We just do what we have to do day in and day out, and prepare for the next team.”
“We just have to maintain our focus,” said Whipple. “The kids played pretty well.
“I was a little disappointed in our lines in the first half. We didn’t get pressure. If we want to win the sectional championship again, we’ve got to do better.”
Ichabod Crane 0 7 0 2 — 9
Schalmont 21 20 14 0 — 55
S — Willis 55 run (Sichak kick).
S — Willis 11 run (Sichak kick).
S — Willis 8 run (Sichak kick).
S — Paturso 11 blocked punt return (kick failed).
IC — James 5 pass from Burke (Rybka kick).
S — Gallo 47 run (Sichak kick).
S — Willis 12 run (Sichak kick).
S — Gac 60 run (Sichak kick).
S — Willis 91 run (Sichak kick).
IC — Safety