The Saratoga Springs football team fell behind for the first time this season in the opening quarter of Friday night’s Class AA rivalry game at Shenendehowa.
The Blue Streaks found themselves trailing twice more, and never flinched.
“We haven’t been in that situation where we needed a score and needed a stop,” Saratoga coach Terry Jones said after his team’s back-and-forth 30-21 Empire Division victory on Shenendehowa’s homecoming. “The guys showed their determination. They showed a lot of character not getting rattled.”
Leejay Pollacchi ran for three touchdowns, two after special teams mistakes by the Plainsmen, and the senior intercepted a pass in the final seconds to seal the Blue Streaks’ fourth straight, a playoff-sealing division triumph.
The Blue Streaks trailed, 7-0, 14-10 and 21-17, before Colin Mulholland hit Will Dryer with an
18-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, and Pollacchi scored soon after on a six-yard gallop to cap his grand evening.
“We certainly weren’t expecting it to be easy,” Jones said after the Blue Streaks, ranked No. 20 in the state, avenged last year’s 35-7 loss to the Plainsmen. “This was their first home game. It was their homecoming. You had the Shenendehowa-Saratoga rivalry. They played hard.”
Saratoga did, too, and just a little bit better in beating Shenendehowa for only the 11th time going back to the series’ inception in 1979.
At 4-0, the Blue Streaks are off to their best start since 2003.
“There’s no better feeling,” said Pollacchi, who rushed for 52 yards on nine carries, and scored his first two TDs on jaunts of 11 and seven yards. “We were definitely prepared for this game. They embarrassed us last year on our field, and we weren’t going to let that happen again.”
Suhayb Banks, Kyle Hendrickson and Bronson Greene produced touchdowns for Shenendehowa, which dipped to 2-1 in the Empire Division and 2-2 overall. It’s first loss came against Section II’s only other unbeaten Class AA team, Schenectady, in a crossover to open the season, 36-7.
“We’ve made some progress since that first game,” said Shenendehowa coach Brent Steuerwald. “I didn’t want my team to walk on the field and be overwhelmed, and we weren’t. I thought our overall performance was good, but we’ve still got some things to work on.”
Special teams play hurt Shenendehowa, and aided the Saratoga cause, with two of Pollacchi’s touchdowns coming after failed punt attempts by Greene.
“We don’t put guys out there who can’t do the job,” Pollacchi said. “Special teams are probably one of the strongest parts of our game.”
With Saratoga holding a 24-21 lead in the fourth quarter, Greene failed to handle a punt deep in his own territory, tried to run, and the sophomore was swarmed by the Blue Streaks. On the first play from scrimmage after that, Pollacchi went six yards to the end zone to extend Saratoga’s advatage to 11 points with 6:42 left.
Saratoga had taken the lead on its drive before that, which Mulholland finished off with his 18-yard touchdown pass to Dryer with 8:46 remaining in the final period. That touchdown capped a nine-play,
64-yard march, and created the fifth lead change of the contest.
“We got behind early and the kids believed in themselves,” said Jones. “We kept coming back and came out on top.”
Banks gave Shenendehowa a quick lead with a one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and Saratoga got a second-quarter safety when Greene punted into his own line, scooped up the ball in the end zone, and was downed by Zach Hartmann and Jon Noonan.
Pollacchi finished off a seven-play, 43-yard drive soon after, scoring from 11 yards away. Ben Cook had two runs of eight yards during the drive and another for seven, and Mulholland ran for nine just before Pollacchi’s TD.
“It’s nice to finish off drives and get touchdowns, but a lot of guys were a part of this,” said Pollacchi. “With our backfield, we’ve probably got the most depth in Section II.”
Cook led Saratoga with 120 rushing yards on 18 carries, while Banks topped the Plainsmen with 101 yards on 20 attempts. Kalish was 8-for-14 passing for 140 yards, with his
58-yard pass to Tyler Mulville setting up Green’s touchdown. That was followed by Chris Millington’s extra point, giving Shenendehowa a 21-17 lead with 12 seconds left in the third frame.
Saratoga Springs 0 10 7 13 — 30
Shenendehowa 7 0 14 0 — 21
Shen — Banks 1 run (Millington kick).
Sara — Safety (tackle in end zone).
Sara — Pollacchi 11 run (Walczac pass from Mulholland).
Shen — Hendrickson 13 pass from Kalish (Millington kick).
Sara — Pollacchi 7 run (Daley kick).
Shen — Greene 7 run (Millington kick).
Sara — Dryer 18 pass from Mulholland (Daley kick).
Sara — Pollacchi 6 run (kick failed).