All Dylan Slater said he saw were holes.
Slater burst through those gaps created by his Canajoharie teammates and ran 54 yards to the end zone.
Though Saratoga Central Catholic was competitive in its first varsity football game in 20 years, Slater’s big scoring run on the second play of the game set the tone, and the defending Section II Class D regular season champion
Cougars rolled to a 35-0 win over the Saints Friday night.
“We talked about that all week,” Canajoharie coach Ken Sullivan said. “If you can get on a team quick, it can set the tempo.”
“The line was fantastic,” Slater said. “It was real important, get the boys going, get them wild. It’s what you have to do.”
Slater scored two touchdowns, including his 54-yarder, and ran for 121 yards on 16 carries, all but one rush coming in the first half. Slater also intercepted a pass as a linebacker on Saratoga Catholic’s second offensive series.
Pete Schwab ran for 127 yards on 16 carries.
Payton Stahler threw three touchdown passes and was 5-for-12 for 86 yards passing. Two of those TDs went to Dane O’Neil, who totaled 44 yards receiving on three catches. Joshua Hill caught two passes for 42 yards, including a 25-yard TD pass to open the fourth quarter and make it 28-0.
O’Neil also had an interception as a linebacker, giving the Cougars the ball on the Saints’ 45-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. Two runs of two and 40 yards by Schwab set up O’Neil’s second TD catch of the night.
“Pete Schwab had a great game tonight,” O’Neil said. “He’s only a sophomore and he really came up big.”
None of the Saints’ players were born when Saratoga Catholic last fielded a varsity in 1988, a winless season. But after recent success on the modified and junior varsity levels, the Saints took the next step Friday night.
“We competed. We played an excellent football team,” Saratoga Catholic coach Phonsey Lambert said. “We made a lot of mistakes. You don’t experience a peak without a valley. We know every week is going to be a battle. I thought our kids learned a lot about football tonight. They learned a lot about playing, they learned the speed of the game tonight, what it takes.”
“They were definitely good,” O’Neil said. “They played very well. They had very good key players. In a few years I bet you they’re going to be a huge team.”
Saratoga Catholic learned against a strong Canajoharie squad that intercepted four passes and outgained them 383 yards to 106, including 297-82 on the ground.
“I was happy with their overall play,” Sullivan said. “I think we need to polish some things up, fine-tune things.”
“We watched running backs break tackles and keep their feet going. We watched pretty good execution,” Lambert said. “Hopefully, our guys will take a piece of that and learn.”
Still, the Saints still had their moments. Sophomore Dale Long intercepted Stahler’s first pass of the game (right before Slater returned the favor three plays later on a toss from Dylan Anderson). And the Saints were able to outlast the Cougars in the red zone when Canajoharie failed to score from the Saints’ five-yard line and turned it over on downs two plays into the second quarter.
But the Cougars did not squander their next trip into Saratoga Catholic territory. Stahler hit a diving O’Neil in the end zone on fourth down for a six-yard touchdown to complete a 68-yard drive with 2:00 remaining in the half, putting Canajoharie ahead 14-0.
“I felt that our defense really responded,” Lambert said. “I thought if we could’ve stopped them on that fourth down play near the goal line, I thought that really hurt. That was tough. But we just got to come back and get better next time.”
Logan Valenty led the Saints with 30 yards rushing on eight carries.
“They had some good skill positions at linebacker,” Sullivan said. “They’re well-coached. Phonsey did a great job, and I’m very hopeful that that program has success.”
Saratoga Catholic 0 0 0 0 — 0
Canajoharie 7 7 7 14 — 35
C — Slater 54 run (Sealy kick)
C — O’Neil 6 pass from Stahler (Sealy kick)
C — Slater 6 run (Sealy kick)
C — Hill 25 pass from Stahler (Sealy kick)
C — O’Neil 3 pass from Stahler (Sealy kick)
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