Marc Thompson spun away from a pack of would-be tacklers at the line of scrimmage, broke left and dashed 55 yards for a touchdown on the third play of Schenectady’s season-opening Class AA football game against Shenendehowa Friday night.
“Coach told us to try to make a big play to get the team going, and I was able to do that,” said Thompson, a senior tailback and linebacker. “He wanted to get the team up.”
The Patriots never came down, and with one big play after another, forged one of the greatest victories in their 21-year history.
Thompson scored two more touchdowns after his brilliant end zone dash, Marcus Brandon played a role in two significant plays, including an early fumble recovery, and Schenectady forced three turnovers in a 36-7 victory over the
10-time Section II champs at Larry Mulvaney Field.
“This is the best feeling. No one thought we could beat them,” said Brandon, a senior tight end defensive end. “We played our game.”
Schenectady had previously beaten Shenendehowa only one other time, in a 2001 sectional quarterfinal, while bowing to the Plainsmen on six occasions. In the last meeting between the teams, in the 2002 playoffs, the Plainsmen rolled to a 35-0 triumph.
“Everybody here is surprised. We’re not,” said second-year Schenectady coach Carm DePoalo, whose Patriots led at the half, 22-0. “We believe we’re a good football team. We’ve got got a good coaching staff. This is a quality school.”
“For Schenectady, that’s a milestone win for them. They kept their poise. They have a good base of talent. They deserve all the respect they get from this,” said Shenendehowa coach Brent Steuerwald, Section II’s all-time victory leader with 290. “For us, we’ve got to find a way to put it together and get some wins.”
Schenectady wrapped up its impressive win on the first play of the fourth quarter when Thompson took a screen pass from Nick Ottati and went nine yards to the end zone. Thompson’s two-point conversion run made it 30-0, and Herman Siese’s two-yard touchdown run capped the scoring with 1:30 to go.
“This feels really, really good,” said Thompson, who rushed for 91 yards on 16 carries, and caught three passes for another 29. “I can’t express how this feels, but we can’t be satisfied. As far as I’m concerned, we’re done with Shenendehowa, and the focus is on [next week’s opponent] Colonie.”
A positive quickly turned to a negative for Shenendehowa when it marched from its 34 to the Schenectady 13 on its opening drive, but lost the ball on Suhayb Banks’ fumble and Brandon’s recovery, shifting momentum right back to the Patriots.
“Those things are game-changing plays,” Steuerwald said. “We never put any doubt into their kids.”
Thompson returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown with 23 seconds left in the first quarter, and with 23 seconds remaining in the half, Brandon reached high to grab a 19-yard touchdown pass from Ottati.
“Nick got hit on the play before that, but he made a great throw,” said the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Brandon, who had four receptions for 36 yards. “He sucked it up, and I made the catch.”
“That was a big-time catch and a big-time pass,” DePoalo said. “That was big to get that touchdown just before the half.”
Ottati was 11-for-20 passing for 146 yards, and aside from his TD passes to Brandon and Thompson, he hit Seise with a two-point conversion pass and ran for two.
“Marc and Marcus are a two-headed monster out there, but this was a whole team effort,” said DePoalo, who in 2007 guided the Pats to their first winning season, at 5-4. “Nick made some key plays, and our offensive line did the job tonight. We’ve got a great bunch of kids who played hard.”
“We were successful tonight because of the lines. The offensive and defensive lines,” said Brandon. “They were phenomenal.”
On the drive setting up Brandon’s scoring grab, Ottati found Seise for 24 yards and Thompson for 13, and in between those connections, James Baez broke off a 23-yard run.
“On the play before [Brandon’s TD] I got hit in the stomach, and I was thinking about coming out, but with only a couple of seconds left, I figured I could hang in there,” said Ottati. a senior. “I know all I have to do is put it in an area, and he’ll go up and get it.
“That put us over the edge right there. That was great.”
James Baez a sophomore, rushed for 80 yards on 10 carries. Seise’s fourth-quarter touchdown was set up when Rashawn Champ intercepted a middle screen and took the ball 12 yards to the Shenendehowa 10.
Banks led the Plainsmen with 104 rushing yards on 17 carries, and scored on a 13-yard scamper in the final period.
“Each person needs to look at themselves and say, ‘What can I do to make this team better?’ The coaches, too,” said Steuerwald. “That’s the challenge that we’re presented with.”
Shenendehowa 0 0 0 7 — 7
Schenectady 14 8 0 14 — 36
Sc — Thompson 55 run (Seise pass from Ottati).
Sc — Thompson 58 interception return (pass failed).
Sc — Brandon 19 pass from Ottati (Ottati run).
Sc — Thompson 9 pass from Ottati (Thompson run).
Sh — Banks 13 run (C. Millington kick).
Sc — Seise 2 run (run failed).
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